Court Refuses To Issue Injunction Stopping Secret Web Spycams From Running On Rental Laptops
from the really? dept
But, no such luck. The judge refused to order an injunction, pointing out, first of all, that the people suing no longer had that laptop, so there was no additional harm to them. As for everyone else in the class, there's this stunner of a line from the judge:
Moreover, it is purely conjecture that the other members of the putative class will be subjected to remote access of personal information.That doesn't make sense to me at all. If they're not subject to remote access, then such an injunction wouldn't matter anyway. Yet, if they are subject to the remote access, then the injunction can help. In other words, the judge's logic is backwards: it might not happen, so let's not try to prevent it? The court could still issue the injunction -- and if people aren't subject to that kind of remote access to their personal information, then nothing would happen.
Separately, the judge suggested that the family has a weak case, because the CFAA computer hacking law they're relying on requires interception of electronic communications... and the court isn't sure that snapping a photo of you captures electronic communications. That certainly does raise an interesting legal question. I'm not a fan of the CFAA, but if you're just spying on someone via a webcam, is that the same thing as spying what's on their desktop? I think the common sense solution is that of course both should be seen as violating the law... but it is a unique situation.
I'm not the only one surprised and confused by this. Internet lawyer Venkat Balasubramani was surprised as well:
Yikes! Privacy class actions seem out of control to me, but I'll admit even I was surprised by this result. I'm equally surprised that the Aaron's-affiliated defendants did not all just stipulate to suspending use of the software until things were sorted out. (Aarons, Inc. did, but its franchisee Aspen Way did not. In fact, Aspen Way did not participate in the hearing, which makes the denial of injunctive relief all the more perplexing.) Setting aside whether the court was correct in its view of the merits of the case, the court takes an unduly restrictive view of the facts when it states that no "interception" of an electronic communication occurred because there was no evidence that Mr. Byrd was online or communicating with someone else when the image in question was captured. Surely, given the ex-employee's testimony as to what type of information was viewed through use of the software, it's fair to presume that the Aspen Way employees are not sitting around making sure that the capture only occurred while the computer user was offline or not communicating with another person.But seriously, think about what this ruling could mean. It could certainly open up the opportunity for more software products to secretly turn your camera on, claiming it's fine because there's no "communication" going on.