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Stored Communications Act

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5th Circuit Holds Cell Phone Data Not Protected by SCA

The federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) does not protect text messages, photos, and video on a cell phone since the phone is not a “facility” nor an “electronic communication service” as defined in the federal statute.  An employee had her phone taken from her work locker and inspected for potential violations of policy.  She was fired.  She claimed, among other things, a violation of the SCA but lost on summary judgment.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed finding that the (undefined) term of “facility” did not include personal computers or cell phones and are more often the ISP or cell provider.  The personal devices enabled the use of the “electronic communication service” (ECS) and not what the ECS providers use to store and maintain data.  Likewise, the data on the phone was not “electronic storage.”

The case is Garcia v. City of Laredo et al.

A comprehensive background on the SCA is Orin S. Kee, A User’s Guide to the Stored Communications Act and a Legislator’s Guide to Amending It.