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It may be illegal to read someone else’s email

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Many people know that it’s a crime to open someone else’s mail. But in 2023, most people aren’t sending or receiving that many letters through the post office. Instead, they do this through email.

However, accessing someone else’s email without permission is prohibited under U.S. law and under California law. If someone breaks into another person’s email account and reads their messages, they could be accused of fraud and related crimes. Everyone has a right to privacy regarding their own correspondence.

Exceeding authorized access 

One important point about the law is that it says it is illegal to knowingly access someone’s computer system without getting their permission, and that it is also illegal to “exceed authorized access.”

For instance, say that an employee is told they have permission to access their boss’s email to read one specific note that applies to their day-to-day operations. If the employee simply does that, then they have been given authorization and they don’t have to worry about legal ramifications for reading their boss’s email. But if they then exceed that authorization by reading the rest of the email messages, deleting messages, sending new messages while pretending to be their boss – or anything else that goes beyond the original authorization – they could be in violation of the law.

Tech-based laws can be very complex because technology itself is always changing. But the key is that authorization and permission are needed for the access of electronic records, such as email messages or other personal messages. Those who are facing allegations of violating these laws need to know about their legal defense options.