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There are counter-intuitive interpretations of aging electronic privacy statute passed before webcams were invented and a federal hacking law that offers a private individual the right to sue but imposes requirements on this right that exclude most victims of ratters. law and policy, though, can meaningfully improve the status quo and ensure that the public is protected.
Theoretically available state-level protections vary widely from place to place, and federal law, as a privacy backstop, is inadequate.There's a real threat of being watched and recorded where you live, and without your knowledge or consent.Anyone with or near a computer and its webcam is potentially at risk.School districts have used RATs to spy on students in their bedrooms; rent-to-own computer stores have secretly watched their customers.Online, at places like Hack Forums.net, individuals, often men, trade and sell access to strangers' computers, often women, gained via RAT.Amending the CFAA’s damages requirement to take into account the type of harms suffered by ratting victims would offer more people the ability to gain relief under the act’s provisions.
Ratting also raises constitutional and judicial process concerns, relating both to public access to democracy and to the strict warrant requirements regarding searches by the government of private individuals.
In the last category, few statutes have more potential than the ECPA. Patrick Leahy noted in 2013 was "no longer suited" to contemporary threats—courts have turned to a technologically unwieldy metaphor of "flight" to determine which interceptions occur “contemporaneously” with a message’s transmission and thus are covered by the statute.
ECPA was passed in 1986 as an amendment to the federal Wiretap Act, and, among other things, generally forbids the interception of electronic communications without the consent of a party to that communication. This definitional jig has meant webcam hacking victims are uncovered, with courts reluctant to take the sensible step of including webcam RAT spying under the act’s auspices.
In this arena, multiple aspects of the legal system are implicated, the CFAA among them.
With law enforcement and intelligence agency hacking on the rise, another section of the CFAA takes on greater importance for victims of ratting.
(A related suit alleging RAT-enabled interception of privileged and confidential attorney work product is unfolding in Georgia.)* * *Another law integral to electronic privacy is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and, like ECPA, RATs were not considered when it was written.