Instagram Hacking Not a Computer Crime Says Court in Florida

Law Office of W.F. ''Casey'' Ebsary Jr
Instagram Hack
Instagram Hack Not a Computer Crime in Florida

Is Hacking an Instagram Account Always a Crime in Florida?

A guy in Florida was convicted of unauthorized computer use. the court reversed his conviction. The guy“logged into his ex-girlfriend’s Instagram account and posted nude photographs of her without her permission.” The prosecutor claimed that constituted a violation of section 815.06(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2013).

What Is Hacking a Computer Network in Florida?

Section 815.06 makes it illegal under Florida computer law and states “[w]hoever willfully, knowingly, and without authorization [a]ccesses or causes to be accessed any computer, computer system, or computer network . . . commits an offense against computer users.” § 815.06(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2013).

The court reversed the conviction and focussed on three defintions in the law:

  • “Computer” means an internally programmed, automatic device that performs data processing
  • “Computer network” means any system that provides communications between one or more computer systems and its input or output devices, including, but notlimited to, display terminals and printers that are connected by telecommunication facilities.
  • “Computer system” means a device or collection of devices, including support devices, one or more of which contain computer programs, electronic instructions, or input data and output data, and which perform functions, including, but not limited to, logic, arithmetic, data storage, retrieval, communication, or control. The term does not include calculators that are not programmable and that are not capable of being used in conjunction with external files.§ 815.03, Fla. Stat. (2013).

The state failed to prove that Instagram was a Computer, computer system, or “computer network. The winning argument was that an Instagram account does not fall within any of these statutory definitions.

Instagram Hack Case Excerpt:

“The plain language of the statutory definitions of “computer,” “computer system,” and “computer network” refer to tangible devices, not the data and other information located on the device. Thus, to prove a violation of section 815.06(1)(a) the State must establish that the defendant accessed one of the listed tangible devices without authorization, not that the defendant accessed a program or information stored on the device without authorization. See Rodriguez v. State, 956 So. 2d 1226, 1230 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007) (reversing conviction under section 815.06 because evidence only established that the defendant accessed a “computer function” that he was not authorized to access).”

“Here, the charge against Appellant was based only on the unauthorized access of his ex-girlfriend’s Instagram account, not the computer server on which the account is presumably located. We say “presumably” because the only evidence in the record explaining what Instagram is was the ex-girlfriend’s testimony that it is a form of social media and “a place where you post pictures [and] your friends get to see it.” Nothing in the record establishes or explains how accessing an Instagram account works from a technological perspective, leaving unanswered whether or how Appellant’s actions amounted to accessing a specific computer, computer system, or computer network. Accordingly, in this case, the State failed to provide the necessary evidentiary foundation to prove that Appellant’s actions violated section 815.06(1)(a).”

Revenge Porn Statute Section 784.049, Florida Statutes

The court conclude a revenge porn prosecution under Section 784.049, Florida Statutes, that specifically prohibits the publication of sexually-explicit images of a person on the Internet without his or her consent is now a tool prosecutors can use. The court noted the new revenge porn statute was needed because “Florida law does not specifically prohibit posting pictures of a nude adult person on the Internet for viewing by other adults if the picture was taken with the knowledge and consent of the person”.

Source: Crapps v State, CASE NO. 1D14-4569 (Fla 1st DCA Dec 8, 2015).

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