An electronic communication under this act is essentially any kind of data (writing, an image, or some other information) that is transmitted through wire, radio, electromagnetic, or any other kind of electronic system. This can include, but is not exclusive to, phone calls, emails as well as other communications via the internet.
Essentially it protects individuals using the Internet by prohibiting not only other individuals, but the federal government itself from listening in on any of your private communications, or if they happen to listen in, the perpetrator is forbidden from disclosing the contents of the communication to anybody else.
There are number of exceptions to this protection of privacy:
- Government officials can intercept and obtain information from electronic communications if they first get a warrant to do so
- Internet service providers (ISPs) can view electronic communications if they suspect a sender of the communications is trying to cause damage to the system
- ISPs can also view electronic communication if it is important for sustaining the continuance of service to customers
- If the communication seems to involve the commission of a crime, an ISP is allowed to view and disclose the communication to the proper legal authorities
- Communications that are already readily available to the public are not protected under this law. This could pertain to chat rooms and other types of forums where anyone can just get together and talk. Any individual is allowed to view and save these types of communication
- If the individual initiating the communication consents to having it intercepted, the communication is not protected under the law. This can occur in the workplace, where there is an employment contract saying the employer can monitor employee emails, or when customers on the internet sign a membership agreement
If important information you were relaying over the Internet in the strictest confidence was intercepted illegally by a third party, you may want to consult an attorney who has experience in cyberspace law. A business attorney will be able to advise you of your rights and let you know if you may be eligible for money damages in a lawsuit against the perpetrator.