CURRENT MONTH (December 2020)

Data Privacy

Ninth Circuit Questions SCA Coverage of Web-Based Emails

By Roxanne M. Eastes,Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently determined in the Clare v. Clare case that an ex-husband who used his sleeping ex-wife’s thumb print to unlock her phone and read her work emails without her consent possibly violated the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”).

The three judge panel unanimously held that more information was necessary to determine whether cloud-based services, such as Microsoft Exchange, met the definition of “back-up storage” under the SCA and that the District Court had erred by not allowing testimony of an information technology employee responsible for managing data security at the ex-wife’s employer.

The Ninth Circuit held that the case raised an important question regarding whether “email messages maintained only on a web-based platform can fall within the purview of [an SCA] subsection” and that based on the limited information before them, they were unable to answer that question. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s decision and remanded for further proceedings.

EDPA Approves Settlement for Publishing Criminal Records

Reuben Gottlieb, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor LLP

After years of litigation, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania approved an amended settlement agreement of a class-action suit involving a privacy breach of criminal records.  Taha v. Bucks County, No. 12-6867 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2020).  A Pennsylvania suburban county used a non-secure database in publishing on the internet information including photographs, state fingerprint identification numbers, arrest dates, and arrest charges.  Plaintiff successfully asserted that the privacy breach enabled private companies to republish criminal records expunged from County records.  Finding that the County violated Pennsylvania’s Criminal History Record Information Act, the court approved a settlement available to more than 10,000 members who are now entitled to receive $600 each, or 60% of the jury award.


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