Tuesday, January 9, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Court upholds Web site privacy

Advertiser Staff and News Services

Hawaiian Airlines Inc. may be held liable in connection with allegations that it gained unlawful access to a pilot’s Web site that criticized management, a federal appeals court has ruled.

In a precedent-setting decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a federal judge’s decision to dismiss the pilot’s claims. Robert Konop, who operated the site, sued Hawaiian Airlines, saying it violated federal wiretap and labor laws by viewing his secure site under false pretenses and gaining unauthorized access to its contents.

The court has thus ruled for the first time that accessing a private Web site without permission may violate the federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Communication Act, or both. "The contents of secure Web sites are electronic communications’ in intermediate storage that are protected from unauthorized interception under the Wiretap Act," it ruled yesterday.

A Hawaiian Airlines vice president used a pilot’s name to enter the site more than 20 times, the federal court said in its opinion.

Hawaiian Airlines declined comment, saying through a spokesman that it hadn’t seen the ruling. Konop could not be reached for comment. The 9th Circuit returned the case to a federal judge for further proceedings.

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