A federal appeals court says the maker of an online spying tool can be sued on accusations of wiretapping. The federal lawsuit was brought by a man whose e-mail and instant messages to a woman were captured by the husband of the woman. That husband used that data as a "battering ram" as part of his 2010 divorce proceedings.
It's the second time in a week that a federal court has ruled in a wiretapping case—in favor of a person whose online communications were intercepted without consent. The other ruling was against Google. A judge ruled that a person not using Gmail who sent e-mail to another person using Gmail had not consented to Gmail's automatic scanning of the e-mail for marketing purposes. Hence, Google could be sued (PDF) for alleged wiretapping violations.
For the moment, the two outcomes are a major victory for privacy. But the reasoning in the lawsuit against the makers of the WebWatcher spy program could have ramifications far beyond the privacy context—and it places liability on the producers of spyware tools. more