A California judge has ruled that using another person’s Facebook account password to gain access to their profile, and then trolling using that account, is identity theft.
A juvenile received an unsolicited text message with the victim’s e-mail password. He used the password to gain access to her profile, and posted several inappropriate messages from the victim’s account. He sent posts to her friends, and changed her profile as well. Many of the posts were of a sexual nature.
The victim, also a juvenile, said she suffered stigma as a result of the posts, and is struggling with the attention it brings her at school.
The juvenile was prosecuted under a California statute which applies to anyone who willfully obtains personal information from someone else and uses it for any unlawful purpose, including “to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property or medication information.”
The judge ruled that despite the fact that the information was unsolicited, the defendant did willfully use the information for an unlawful purpose. The juvenile said he meant his comments to be taken as a joke.
The court found that, since the defendant conceded that his conduct satisfied the requirements of a civil defamation claim, the defendant’s act constituted libel and is a criminal offense. The defendant’s actions violated section 653m, which makes illegal any contact with another person using “obscene language by means of an electronic device, with the intent to annoy.”
Could this set a precedent for other states? Stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, don’t use other people’s passwords or profiles, and guard your own.