A federal agent's access to a user's computer via a peer-to-peer file-sharing program did not violate the Fourth Amendment, because the user's expectation of privacy in the contents of his computer was negated by his failure to properly engage the privacy features in the program, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled. The court noted that despite the user's efforts to protect his files from access, his files were “entirely exposed to public view” by anyone using the same P2P program. The user's subjective intent not to share his files, the court concluded, did not create an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy. The court also rejected the argument that the agent's use of a specialized forensic software program unavailable to the general public to examine the contents of the files on the user's computer rendered the search unlawful.
United States v. Borowy, 595 F.3d 1045 (9th Cir. Feb. 17, 2010) Download PDF