Social media privacy cases continue to grow under the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) (see our prior alert on the Ehling decision). The SCA provides a private right of action for unauthorized, intentional access of another’s communications held in electronic storage, allowing the plaintiff to recover actual damages, plus any profits made by the violator, in an amount no less than $1,000.
In a recent social media privacy case—Maremont v. Susan Fredman Group, Ltd., No. 10 C7811, 2014 WL 812401 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 3, 2014)—the Northern District of Illinois lowered the bar for establishing a claim under the SCA. Specifically, the court held that the defendant was not entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff’s SCA claim that the defendant accessed her social media accounts without her permission, regardless of whether the plaintiff could prove actual damages. The court’s decision furthers an emerging federal court split on whether a plaintiff must show actual damages in order to recover statutory damages under the SCA.
With this decision, the Northern District of Illinois has increased the prospect of more social media privacy cases under the SCA surviving summary judgment. And, though this is one district court decision, employers should monitor whether other courts continue to follow suit and, if so, take additional precautions to avoid running afoul of the SCA.