Harmless Snooping Turns Expensive

June 19th, 2017 by JBWK

Submitted by Katharine J. Westfall

Ever had the urge to look through a significant other’s smartphone or computer? Better think twice.

In a recent decision, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found that a man could bring legal action against his ex-girlfriend for guessing his email password and reading his emails. In Hately v. Torrenzano, a couple who had been together for five years and had two children together split apart. Ms. Torrenzano successfully guessed Mr. Hately’s password, then accessed his email accounts and allegedly changed that password.

The court held that even though there was no measurable injury done to Mr. Hately, because the conduct was “willful or intentional” he could still sue for punitive damages and attorney’s fees to give adequate punishment to Ms. Torrenzano for her violation of his privacy.

For all those dealing with the fallout of a rocky break-up, guessing a former partner’s passwords could have greater consequences than an angry voicemail.

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