A former transportation logistics company employee may have run afoul of a federal computer fraud law when he accessed a Google Drive account he had created for his employer, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held March 9 ( Estes Forwarding Worldwide LLC v. Cuellar , 2017 BL 74693, E.D. Va., No. 3:16-CV-853-HEH, 3/9/17 ).
The scope of the law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, has been widely debated, particularly because it was originally designed to criminalize computer hacking. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last year shed some light on what constitutes unauthorized access under the law, which was enacted in 1986. But the Virginia case adds a new layer to the uncertainty surrounding that critical element.
Plaintiff Estes Forwarding Worldwide LLC alleged that former employee Marcelo Cuellar created the account “on behalf of EFW” so that employees could record shipment and vendor information. EFW alleged that after Cuellar left the company he accessed the account, downloaded the information onto a computer at his new job and then deleted the account.
Judge Henry E. Hudson rejected Cuellar’s motion to dismiss the case. Cuellar contended that because he created the account, Google’s authorization—not EFW’s—matters for purposes of determining whether the law was broken.
“Cuellar’s principal argument conspicuously ignores the fact that he only did so while acting in the course and scope of his employment and for the benefit of EFW, not for personal use,” the court said.
The court distinguished the case from Hoofnagle v. Smyth-Wythe Airport Comm’n, W.D. Va., No. 1:15-cv-00008-JPJ-PMS, 2016 BL 164647, 5/24/16 , in which another federal district court in Virginia held a former airport worker could pursue a claim that his employer allegedly accessed his Yahoo! Inc. e-mail account without authorization. The Hoofnagle court said that although the plaintiff created the account in part to conduct airport business, he did so with his personal information and also used the account for personal reasons.
The EFW court said that unlike Hoofnagle, Cuellar didn’t create the Google Drive account as a personal account. At “no point in the complaint does EFW allege that Cuellar—or any other employee, for that matter—utilized the account for personal use like the Plaintiff in Hoofnagle,” the court said.
LeClair Ryan PC represented EFW. K&G Law Group PLLC represented Cuellar.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at firstname.lastname@example.org
Full text at http://src.bna.com/mR7.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)