Privacy Law

6th Circuit allows suit claiming WebWatcher software violates wiretap law, invades privacy

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A federal appeals court is allowing a lawsuit that claims the maker of WebWatcher spyware violates federal and Ohio wiretap laws, as well as a common law right to privacy

The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judge’s dismissal of the suit in a 2-1 decision (PDF) issued on Aug. 16, report the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and IDG News Service. How Appealing notes news coverage.

The lawsuit had accused the software maker, Awareness Technologies, of making and marketing its software with the knowledge it would be used to illegally intercept electronic communications. The company then remained involved in the WebWatcher operation by maintaining servers where intercepted communications were stored, according to the allegations in the lawsuit.

Awareness had argued it did not “intercept” the communications within the meaning of the wiretap law.

The plaintiff, Javier Luis of Tampa, Florida, had sued after an Ohio woman’s suspicious husband had intercepted her online communications with Luis by installing WebWatcher on the family computer. The husband allegedly used the communications to divorce his wife on favorable terms. Luis did not have a lawyer when he filed the lawsuit.

Luis is now represented by Mark Pickrell, the interim head of Vanderbilt Law School’s appellate litigation clinic, who says the decision could have a wide reach. Pickrell tells the Wall Street Journal Law Blog that the case could affect monitoring of employees, because the people with whom they communicate don’t consent to any monitoring.

The case is Luis v. Zang.

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