According to New Jersey courts, it’s legal to snoop in another person’s email if they’ve left their accounts logged in to a common computer.
When this ruling came along, it worked in NJ teacher Wayne Rogers’ favor. One day, he was in his school’s computer lab and, after accidentally bumping a nearby mouse, saw the inbox of his colleague — including a message with the subject line “Wayne Update.” He couldn’t help himself, he had to look. And so began the revelation that his co-workers were talking smack about him. Case in point:
“I guess [Rogers] chooses not to listen. I will not respond to him. He is sooooo fake. And sooooo with the Dark Side. I will never tell him “The Truth”, not because he can’t handle it but because he’s too dumb to understand it. See you later.”
He printed out the emails and confronted the offenders, who were shocked, embarrassed and, it turns out, rather litigious. They took Rogers to court. And it was there that jurors decided that Rogers’ fellow teacher had given “tacit approval” to look at her email by leaving herself logged in on a public computer.
It would’ve been a very different scenario if the account had been breached by Rogers himself through hacking or brute force. But that wasn’t the case — the action of accessing the account was performed by the primary account holder, the gossipy colleague.
Not only did the court determine that Rogers had a right to peep in there, but the Superior Court of New Jersey backed up the ruling, refusing to overturn it.
So let it be a lesson: If you’re not already hyper-vigilant about logging out of any and all your accounts when using a public computer, you’ll want to do so now… especially if you’re in New Jersey.
(via Ars Technica)