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Pike & Lustig, LLP. We see solutions where others see problems.

Computer Snooping Can Lead to Big Problems


We all know how sensitive the data that we post on social media is, or the data that we just keep stored in our computers or devices. That’s why when there is a dispute—be it a business dispute, a family law dispute, a probate dispute, or some other legal dispute-it can be really tempting to try to get into the accounts of our opposition, to try to access incriminating information.

Why Snoop or Hack a Computer?

The temptation to snoop is present especially with family members, who may feel that by hacking into another family member’s social media or other online accounts, they aren’t really snooping, because after all, it’s just family. Or, if the dispute may be between business partners, where someone may feel like the account or the device “belongs to the business,” and thus, it’s not really snooping.

Snooping is a Crime

But think again, because going into the electronic records of someone else without their knowledge, consent or permission, can get you into hot water. It is a federal crime, and someone can sue, for hacking into another person’s computer, under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as the Federal Stored Communications Act.

The law is often used by the aggrieved (snooped on) party as a sword in unrelated litigation.

For example, imagine a dispute among business partners. The snooping partner hacks into the other partner’s business accounts, to gather dirt on what that business partner has been up to. The partner that was hacked (or snooped on) then files a collateral lawsuit in federal court, for violation of the federal law.

That lawsuit can be used as leverage in the original business dispute. And, potentially, as a setoff of damages that may be owed in the underlying, original partnership dispute lawsuit (i.e., “If I owe you $10,000 in this case, you owe me $10,000 for snooping, so we’re even”).

Worse, if asked in the lawsuit if the partner in fact hacked into accounts, that partner may have to plead the 5th, given that admitting to the snooping would be admitting to a federal crime.

This is hardly the situation that the business partner ever wanted to be in.

More Time and Expense

The lawyer you have for the partnership dispute (or divorce, or probate case, or whatever case the parties were originally embroiled in), may not have the federal court experience needed to defend against the charges in federal court. This can add more time, expense, and attorneys fees, to what is already a costly and time consuming process.

On top of all of this, if the snooping party did, in fact, snoop and hack into the other party’s computer files, there is an argument that the information should be inadmissible. That means that after all that time and effort, anything that was revealed from the snooping may end up being useless anyway.

We can help you with your lawsuit the right way. Call our West Palm Beach business litigation attorneys at Pike & Lustig today.


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