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Contents of Secure Websites Are Protected by the Wiretap Act and Stored Communications Act
Description Appeals court held that an employee's suit against his employer for violations of the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act may proceed. The employer gained access to the employee's secure website that contained information critical of the employer. The employer used false means to obtain entry to the site.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Wiretaps; Access; Consent; Privacy
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Konop, a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines, maintained a website where he posted bulletins critical of his employer, its officers, and the pilots' union. He controlled access to his secure website by requiring visitors to log in with a user name and password Konop provided to select Hawaiian employees. To view the website, besides logging in, the user had to agree not to disclose the site's content. A Hawaiian manager used the name of a pilot who had not visited the site before to obtain entry and clicked that he agreed with terms of usage of the site. The information was given to the company president, who shared it with the union. Konop got a call from the union, telling him that he might be sued by Hawaiian for defamation due to the content of the site. The Hawaiian manager logged in to the site about 35 times using the names of two pilots. Konop sued Hawaiian for unauthorized viewing in violation of the Wiretap Act, as amended by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Stored Communications Act. Motions to dismiss the case were appealed.
Decision Konop's suit may proceed. The unauthorized viewing of a secure website constitutes an unlawful "interception" of an electronic communication facility in violation of the Wiretap Act, as well as unlawful "access" of an electronic communications facility in violation of the Stored Communications Act. Whether the material is intercepted when in transit or is pulled from storage does not matter.
Citation Konop v. Hawaiian Airlines, Inc., 2001 WL 13232 (9th Cir., 2001)

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