PJ BLOGGER

Users can expect privacy from ‘Net providers

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2008 at 4:16 am

THE RECORD, Monday, April 21, 2008

BY KIBRET MARKOS

Internet subscriber information is as private as bank records or telephone bills and cannot be accessed by law enforcement without a proper subpoena, the state Supreme Court ruled today.

“We now hold that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the subscriber information they provide to Internet service providers,” the state’s highest court wrote in the 7-0 decision, which will bind law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

The ruling was issued in the case of a South Jersey woman who was indicted on computer theft charges shortly after police obtained her personal information from Comcast, her Internet provider.

The woman, Shirley Reid, argued that police used a faulty subpoena to get hold of her information, thereby violating her privacy rights.

Lower courts agreed with Reid and the state’s highest court sided with her, rejecting arguments by prosecutors that there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” with respect to Internet subscriber information.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing several privacy-rights advocates, had joined the case, asking the court to recognize that Internet users expect their providers to keep their personal information private. The ACLU, along with Reid, also argued that when law enforcement agencies seek subscriber information, the subscriber should be notified.

The justices, however, ruled that law enforcement agencies can obtain such information through a grand jury subpoena without notifying the subscriber.

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