The Stored Communications Act (18 USC 2701) makes a person liable for obtaining a wire or electronic communication, via unauthorized access to a storage facility through which an electronic communication service is provided, while it is in electronic storage.
In Thompson v. Ross, 2010 WL 3896533 (W.D. Pa. 2010), plaintiff’s personal laptop was accessed without his permission and emails on that laptop were accessed as well. The court held that Yahoo and AOL email messages saved on a personal laptop were not “electronic storage” within the meaning of the Stored Communications Act. The court reasoned that a private laptop did not constitute an “electronic communication service” within the meaning of the statute, instead, such communciation services are limited to email backups made on the email ISP’s own servers (either for backup or for transitional transmission purposes).
Held: The Stored Communications Act protects ISP backup facilities, not privately stored files.
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