SW Legal studies in Business

No Right to Privacy in Communications in E-mail or Chat Rooms
Description Appeals court affirmed a criminal conviction of a man who communicated with a minor on the Internet. Knowing her real age, he sent her pornographic materials and requested that she have sex with him. The forwarding of these communications to the police did not violate the law controlling wiretaps and did not violate a constitutionally protected expectation of privacy.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Right to Privacy; Internet; Intercepted Communication; Criminal Solicitation; Obscenity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Proetto appealed his conviction for criminal solicitation, for providing obscene material, and for corruption of a minor due to his communications over the Internet with a 15-year-old girl that came about via a public chat room. Proetto invited the girl to chat with him in private; he knew that she was fifteen. He sent her obscene materials and made express sexual requests of her. She gave copies of the correspondence to the police, who were notified by the girl the next time he appeared in a chat room, at which time more evidence was gathered. Proetto contends that the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act had been violated, and that his expectation of privacy on the Internet had been violated.
Decision Conviction affirmed. The communications that were turned over to the police by the girl were not intercepted by the police and so were not subject to the wiretap law, which governs when and how communications may be subject to wiretap. Furthermore, e-mail and chat room conversations are subject to mutual consent and so are not protected against police use by the wiretap act. There was no legitimate expectation of privacy in these conversations; the girl could forward the material to anyone and could notify anyone, including the police, of when she observed him being on line.
Citation Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Proetto, 2001 WL 294027 (Super. Ct., Pa., 2001)

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