A district court recently held that the federal Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) protects private Facebook wall posts from access by unauthorized users. The SCA—a pre-Internet statute—generally prohibits unauthorized access to non-public electronic communications that were transmitted by an electronic communication system and are in electronic storage. In Ehling v. Monmouth-Ocean Hosp. Serv. Corp., the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that Facebook wall posts protected by privacy settings satisfy all of the requirements for protection under the SCA because Facebook posts are electronic communications that are transmitted by an electronic communication system and are stored electronically on Facebook’s servers.
Despite this holding, the Ehling court nonetheless granted summary judgment against the plaintiff, an employee who had been suspended by her employer based on the content of non-public Facebook posts. The court explained that screenshots of the at-issue posts had been sent voluntarily to the employer by one of the plaintiff’s Facebook “friends,” who was authorized to see the plaintiff’s posts. Therefore, the court held that the employer’s actions were permissible under the “authorized user” exception to the SCA.