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Is there any laws in Massachsetts that prohibits a person…

Is there any laws in...
Is there any laws in Massachsetts that prohibits a person from looking at another person's text messages on the latter's smart phone?
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3/17/2018
RobertJDFL
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It potentially could be, yes.

The Massachusetts Computer Crime Law, G.L. c. 266, § 120F, provides:

“Whoever, without authorization, knowingly accesses a computer system by any means, or after gaining access to a computer system by any means knows that such access is not authorized and fails to terminate such access, shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than thirty days or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or both. The requirement of a password ***** other authentication to gain access shall constitute notice that access is limited to authorized users."

Although this statute does not define “computer system," at least one case found that a spouse was liable after logging into his wife's email which was password ***** Given that many phones today are "smart" phones and allow users to access email, social media, etc., it's not unreasonable to think that a prosecutor could argue that a phone is a "computer" under the law. And, depending on what a person does with this information, there could be additional criminal charges - e.g., if a person accesses the phone and reads the messages and then harasses the owner of the phone, that can lead to criminal harassment charges.

And, the owner of the phone could also sue for invasion of privacy to the extent they have suffered damages by having their phone accessed.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
if access is not protected by a password, then it can be argued that the person accessing the device had no knowledge that the access is prohibited (kind of like trespassing)?

It could be, but I think that also depends on the circumstances. For examples, spouses will often share cell phones -my wife and I have no issue going into one another's phone if we see a text message come through. So I think in that instance, it can be argued "It's always been okay in the past, they never complained, so I didn't think they objected." Now, if the person is a friend or co-worker, even if the phone or email isn't password ***** I think it's a lot harder to argue that they didn't know that access was prohibited. You wouldn't go into your co-worker's desk, or a friend's bag to grab their phone and look through it, after all, right?

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