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Privacy In New Jersey Internet Users' ISP Account Info Granted

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently ruled that Internet users have a right to privacy when it comes to subscriber information they provide to their Internet service providers. However, in its April 21 ruling, the state’s high court also ruled that law enforcement can still access that information via a grand jury subpoena. (State of New Jersey v. Shirley Reid, No. A-105-06, N.J. Sup.).
“It is well-settled under New Jersey law that disclosure to a third-party provider, as an essential step to obtaining service altogether, does not upend the privacy interest at stake. In the world of the Internet, the nature of the technology requires individuals to obtain an IP address to access the Web. Users make disclosures to ISPs for the limited goal of using that technology and not to promote the release of personal information to others. Under our precedents, users are entitled to expect confidentiality under these circumstances,” Justice Stuart Rabner wrote for the court.
In the case before the state’s high court, Shirley Reid, a New Jersey woman, was accused of breaking into her employer’s computer system from her home computer and changing the shipping address and password for all of the company’s suppliers. Lower Township, N.J., police were notified of the problem in August 2004 by Reid’s employer Timothy Wilson. Police obtained the subscriber information about the computer used to change the passwords via a municipal subpoena.
Reid was arrested Oct. 8 and charged with computer-related theft. The Cape May County Superior Court rejected the charge, finding that the information about Reid’s account was obtained in an unauthorized manner. The state appealed.
The New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s ruling in January 2007, opining that state residents maintain an expectation of privacy in their Internet service provider (ISP) account information. The state appealed once more.