A provider of log-in services to users of the Facebook social networking site did not access the site "without permission" under California Penal Code § 502 merely because the access constituted a breach of the site's terms of use, a district court ruled. The court found that such a broad constrution of the statute would put unbridled discretion in private hands to determine the scope of the statute, which would "create a constitutionally untenable situation in which criminal penalties could be meted out on the basis of violating vague or ambiguous terms of use." The court declined to dismiss the site's § 502 claim, however, finding that to the extent that the site could prove that the service's access circumvented "technical or code-based barriers" utilized to limit or deny access to the site, then the service might be held liable under the statute.

Facebook, Inc. v. Power Ventures, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93517 (N.D. Cal. July 20, 2010) Download PDF

Editor’s Note: The ruling disposed of various other claims made by the respective parties, including the defendant's claim that Facebook violated antitrust laws by denying it access to the Facebook Web site.