Electronic communications privacy act
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Electronic Communications Privacy Act

  • Distinction between wire and electronic communication

  • Title III defines “electronic communication”

    • Any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-electric, or photo-optical system that affects interstate . . . Commerce, but does not include . . . any wire . . . communication . . .


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  • Illegal for any “person” to “intentionally intercept” the “content” of any “wire . . . or electronic communication” and to disclose or use any illegally intercepted communication

  • Violation of Title III is a felony—punishable by 5 years in prison

  • Private right of action also possible—damages, punitive damages, attorney fees

  • No exclusionary rule for illegally intercepted electronic communication


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  • Electronic communication includes email and internet use intercept” the “content” of any “wire . . . or electronic communication” and to disclose or use any illegally intercepted communication

  • Electronic communication does not include communication in electronic storage

    • Eliminates usefulness of Title III for email—unlike voice mail


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Workplace exceptions intercept” the “content” of any “wire . . . or electronic communication” and to disclose or use any illegally intercepted communication

  • Consent

    • A party to the communication may give prior consent, even if the other party is unaware

  • Ordinary course of business


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