Business Insider questions if Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerbeg’s alleged actions in college violated privacy laws:
Mark Zuckerberg’s hacking of email accounts and user profiles in 2004 could be felonies under Federal and state law, according to privacy lawyers.
As we described last week, Mark used login data of early Facebook members to break in to the private email accounts of two Harvard Crimson editors. He also broke into the systems of competitor ConnectU and changed user profiles, also according to IMs.
Mark now oversees private data of 400 million people as the CEO of Facebook. Questions have been raised about whether this 2004 behavior violated laws and whether users can trust the company to keep their information from being misused. […]
Since first reporting these hacks last week, we asked Electronic Frontier Foundation’s top privacy lawyer, Kevin Bankston, about the legality of such behavior. Bankston says it could have violated laws:
“An email break-in like the one that’s been alleged would likely violate the federal criminal statutes that regulate electronic privacy and prohibit computer fraud, and depending on the hacker’s motives could even rise to the level of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.”
Specifically, lawyers tell us, Mark’s 2004 actions could have violated the following laws:
- Unauthorized access to communications in electronic storage is a violation of federal law 18 USC 2701(a). If the motive behind Mark’s actions was commercial advantage or private commercial gain, this crime is a felony — punishable by up to five years in jail. If the intent was not commercial, the crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail.
- Unauthorized access to a protected computer is a violation of federal law 18 USC 1030(a)(2)(c). Again, if the crime was perpetrated for commercial advantage or private commercial gain, it is punishable by up to five years in prison. Additionally, if this law was broken in order to facilitate a second crime, such as 18 USC 2701(a), it is a felony.
The statute of limitations of both these federal laws is five years, so Mark is safe from federal prosecution. In Massachusetts, however, the general larceny statute (Mass. Gen. L. ch. 266, § 30), which doubles as computer fraud statute by covering theft of “electronically processed or stored data,” has a statute of limitations of 6 years. If the value of this data exceeds $250, this crime is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.