N.J. High Court Protects e-Privacy With Landmark Ruling
Posted Apr 22, 2008 5:12 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough
Even police in New Jersey will need a subpoena to access personal information about users from Internet service providers, New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The court held that the Garden State's constitution gives residents greater protection against unreasonable searches and seizures than the U.S. Constitution, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.
Grayson Barber, a lawyer who helped six groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Electronic Privacy Information Center, file an amicus brief in the case, says the ruling is the first in the country to recognize a reasonable expectation of privacy for Internet users.
"The New Jersey Supreme Court is the first in the nation to recognize a reasonable expectation of privacy when using the internet anonymously," Barber says."I think this reflects the reality that most people do expect a measure of privacy when they are using the internet anonymously."
In writing for the unanimous seven-judge court (PDF), Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said: "We now hold that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy protected by Article I ... of the New Jersey Constitution, in the subscriber information they provide to Internet service providers—just as New Jersey citizens have a privacy interest in their bank records stored by banks and telephone billing records kept by phone companies."
The underlying case involved Shirley Reid, who was charged with second-degree computer theft for hacking into her employer's computer system from her home computer, the Ledger reports. Local police obtained her identity from Comcast using a municipal court subpoena. The justices held that police had the right to investigate Reid, but should have gone to the grand jury first.