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socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Intellectual Property Law
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My partner, he owned 51%, put a keystroke software on my computer

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My partner, he owned 51%, put a keystroke software on my computer when we were partners between 2002 and 2006. We are a Massachusetts based company. Is that legal? Can he use this information in an attempt to get me in trouble? He says he has evidence of insurance fraud and tax evasion. Can this information be used or is it too easily tampered with? The data has to be at leat 7 years old, how do I combat this? I have no idea what I wrote to someone 7 years ago and in what context it was written. He is trying to extort me for money.
Hello...you asked:

My partner, he owned 51%, put a keystroke software on my computer when we were partners between 2002 and 2006. We are a Massachusetts based company. Is that legal?

A: No. MGL ch. 266 sec. 120F makes it a misdemeanor to access a computer without authorization. Each access represents a separate offense.

Can he use this information in an attempt to get me in trouble?


A: Difficult to say, because we don't know exactly what information he has in his possession.

He says he has evidence of insurance fraud and tax evasion. Can this information be used or is it too easily tampered with?

A: Law enforcement can determine if the evidence is of sufficient quality to be admissible in a criminal trial. There is no way for me to make that determination without actually reviewing the information.

The data has to be at leat 7 years old, how do I combat this?


A: If it were me, I would call the police and let them handle the problem.

I have no idea what I wrote to someone 7 years ago and in what context it was written. He is trying to extort me for money.

A: Extortion is a very serious crime. Once again, if it were me, I would call the police and let them handle the problem.

Obviously, if you know you have committed criminal acts in the past and there is evidence on your computer, then perhaps you don't want to say anything to the police. However, there is no property related crime in Massachusetts with a statute of limitations longer than 6 years, so it's unlikely that anything your ex-partner has could be used to prosecute you for a crime. MGL ch. 277 sec. 63.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Hello,

Do you have any further questions concerning this matter, or are we all good?

Thanks in advance.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My partner, he owned 51%, put a keystroke software on my computer when we were partners between 2002 and 2006. We are a Massachusetts based company. Is that legal?

A: No. MGL ch. 266 sec. 120F makes it a misdemeanor to access a computer without authorization. Each access represents a separate offense.


 


I thought as an employer, it is OK to look in on what your employees do on your computer?




Thanks again

You said, My partner....

Partners are not employees, and there is no employment relationship between them. Partners are owners. You also said, my computer, which to me, indicates that you, and not the company, owns the computer. If the relationship between yourself and the company, and the ownership of the computer in your original question, is different that what you originally expressed, and what you meant to say was, My employer..., and the company's computer, then my answer would be different. Here are the various possible outcomes:

1. If you were an employee, and the computer was the employer's/company's, then the employer would have authority to put surveillance software on your computer.

2. If you were an employee, and the computer was your computer, then the employer would not have the authority to put surveillance software on your computer.

3. If you were a partner, and the computer was the employer's/company's, then the law is uncertain -- it's a question for a court to determine based upon the totality of circumstances ascertained from the facts of the case at trial.

4. If you were a partner and the computer was yours, then your partner would not have the authority to put surveillance software on your computer.

As you can see, there is only one circumstance, where the surveillance software would be lawful for certain. In the other circumstances, use of the surveillance software is either absolutely illegal, or uncertain as to the result..

Hope this helps.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi, sorry if I didn't write it well.
We were partners. The company owned the computers.
Thank you for you help!
Tom
Under your stated facts, that would be option #3, which unfortunately, makes the entire issue uncertain, because while the computer is partnership property, this doesn't necessarily mean that a partner's use of that property would be a either a relinquishment of the partner's rights to privacy, or a grant of authority to a partner to plant surveillance software on the computer.

Given the ambiguity, it is unlikely that law enforcement would charge your ex-partner with a criminal act. Regardless, as I originally suggested, the statute of limitations on property related crimes in MA is six years. So, unless there is something on that computer related to your commission of an alleged crime against a person (kidnapping, sodomy, sexual assault, murder, etc.), then I don't see how your ex-partner could use anything against you, because the statute of limitations has already expired.

Hope this helps.
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