SW Legal studies in Business

Victim of Hacking Into Email System Has Right to Identity of Hacker
Description Appeals court held that a firm that had its secure email system hacked had the right to force discovery of the person who sent emails into the hacked system, but the sender’s ISP first must notify the hacker of the request so he or she can volunteer before a court order before discovery is issued.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Email, Anonymous Messages, Trespass, Identity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Ludlow is founder and CEO of Mobilisa, a wireless communication company that provides systems to customers, including the military. Confidentiality is important and the company secures its systems. Ludlow sent a personal message to a girlfriend. Six days later, a number of people, including Mobilisa’s managers, received a copy of that email with a note: “Is this a company you want to work for?” The message came via theanonymousemail.com, which is owned by TSB. Mobilisa sued John Doe as defendants for violating federal laws regarding electronic communications and asserting a common law claim of trespass to chattel (personal property). The company sought to subpoena the records of TSB to obtain the identity of John Doe who sent the anonymous email. The trial court granted Mobilisa’s request. TSB appealed.
Decision

Reversed and remanded. To compel discovery of an anonymous internet speaker’s identity, the requesting party must show the speaker has been given notice and had the opportunity to respond. Hence, TSB must notify the email sender (John Doe) of Mobilisa’s request and give the sender the chance to reply before a court order for discovery is issued. If there is no cooperation, then Mobilisa can make its request again to force discovery. Mobilisa does not have to show that it was damaged by the anonymous email in order to have the right of discovery under federal law that combats unauthorized access to stored communications.

Citation Mobilisa, Inc. v. Doe, 170 P.3d 712 (Ct. App., Ariz., 2007)

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