Thursday, 16 July 2009

Twitter info: was TechCrunch’s publication legal?

The recent security breach involving popular microblogging site Twitter has been very well publicised.

The hacker, “Hacker Croll”, emailed stolen information relating to Twitter / Twitter personnel to famous tech blog TechCrunch – which published some of it.

Does that publication lay TechCrunch open to being sued by Twitter or anyone else?

There’s a good analysis of the US legal issues by Sam Bayard at Citizen Media Law Project which, after considering:

  1. trade secret misappropriation under California law (publishing confidential company documents)
  2. invasion of privacy for the publication of private facts (publishing sensitive or embarrassing personal information).
  3. criminal law against receipt of stolen property under Section 496 of the California Penal Code,

concludes that, on the facts here at least, in the light of the US First Amendment protecting free speech, when publishing anything that would be classed as a "matter of public concern” TechCrunch are probably in the clear for the publication.

But that doesn’t mean other documents or information stolen can be safely published without liability; and it’s not certain whether there could be criminal liability for receipt (as opposed to publication) of stolen property.

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