Brent Yessin and his wife were business partners and managers of a Florida company, and were seeking a divorce, when Mr. Yessin allegedly intercepted his wife’s business e-mail in order to review messages between her and her divorce attorney. Ms. Yessin sued Mr. Yessin under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits knowingly accessing a computer without authorization or exceeding authorized access and thereby obtaining information or anything of value. She also argued that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), which prohibits the intentional interception of electronic communications, was violated. In his motion to dismiss, Mr. Yessin argued that because he was a manager of the company, he was authorized to access the computer network in question. Denying Mr. Yessin’s motion to dismiss, the Virginia court found that even if Florida law authorizes managers to access information stored on a company’s servers for the purposes of carrying out the company’s business, Mr. Yessin was not acting as an agent of the company when accessing his wife’s e-mail account. The court did grant Mr. Yessin’s motion to dismiss the claim brought under the ECPA because his action was not “interception” under that act since the e-mails had already been received when he accessed them.
TIP: Exercise caution and consult with counsel before accessing your employees’ and co-workers’ e-mails, and ensure that access is in accordance with company policy and applicable laws and for legitimate business purposes.