Jim Porter: Is altering someone’s Facebook profile OK?
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; This column is for all of you young (and old) users of Facebook. As a certified old guy, Iand#8217;m amazed at how much private and potentially damaging information is put on Facebook. Just ask any employer following up on an employment application. Personal postings will be shared.
So what happens if someone gains access to a friendand#8217;s Facebook account and alters her profile and posts obscene messages from her account and#8212; pretending to be the profiled person? All of which causes great grief to the victim. Just ask a juvenile by the name of and#8220;SW.and#8221;
Accessing Facebook account
Rolando S. was one of several recipients of an unsolicited text message providing the password to SWand#8217;s e-mail password and access to her Facebook account. Rolando used SWand#8217;s name to send out prurient messages. Believe me, they were beyond prurient, whatever prurient is. He also altered her profile description in a vulgar manner. Very vulgar. Soliciting you know what.
SW innocently arrived at school and was called every name you can imagine. Her last two years of high school were basically ruined.
SWand#8217;s father told the police who charged Rolando with obtaining personal information and using it for an unlawful purpose.
Rolando was convicted and ordered to Juvie for 90-days-to-a-year, which hardly seems sufficient. Not being happy with that, Rolando appealed.
Stealing personal information
Rolando was convicted of section 530.5(a) of the Penal Code, someone who, and#8220;willfully obtains personal identifying information and#8230; of another person, and uses that information for any unlawful purpose and#8230; without the consent of that personand#8230;and#8221;
Rolandoand#8217;s court appointed lawyer argued that Rolando did not and#8220;willfully obtainand#8221; personal information because it just showed up on his cell phone one day, and while he certainly took advantage of the information, he did not willfully obtain the password.
The Court of Appeal easily concluded Rolando willfully obtained the e-mail and Facebook passwords and intended to do so. Rolando loses round one.
Rolando next argued he did not use SWand#8217;s personal information for any unlawful purpose, but the Court noted that and#8220;for any unlawful purposeand#8221; was enacted by the Legislation or to protect victims of identity theft. Sorry Rolando. Misusing someone elseand#8217;s identity is unlawful, as is libeling SW by telling untruths about her. Pick your poison.
In sum, the Court of Appeal had no problem convicting our boy Rolando of obtaining personal identity information and using it for an unlawful purpose.
The Court discussed a new crime in California as of July 1, 2011 (before Rolandoand#8217;s crime). It is now a misdemeanor to impersonate another person through an Internet website for the purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding them. It is not necessary to obtain personal identifying information. You may be convicted by merely posting comments on a blog impersonating another person. No need to obtain a password.
So my young friends, thatand#8217;s one of many new Internet crimes to be mindful of.
Be smart out there.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firmand#8217;s web site http://www.portersimon.com.
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