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The company cited its agreement with the school district, which gives Absolute's staff "the ability to view and recover any files that are present" on the school's computers.
But the school district has asserted that it never knew this meant that Absolute would intercept communications that a suspected thief might have with third parties.
The ECPA statute prohibits intercepting or disclosing the contents of someone's wire or other electronic communications without their knowledge.
Absolute also insisted it was acting on behalf of its customer, the school district, and therefore was covered under "color of law" and "safe harbor" statutes.
Ordinarily, the next step would be for Absolute to provide a suspect's IP address to law enforcement agents, so that they could issue a subpoena to the suspect's ISP to obtain the user's name and physical address.
The case raises an important issue about the length that someone can legally go to recover stolen goods."It is one thing to cause a stolen computer to report its IP address or its geographical location in an effort to track it down," Rice wrote in his decision (.pdf).Clements-Jeffrey, however, asserted she never noticed the missing serial number and had no reason to doubt the asking price for the two-year-old machine, since the computer had been wiped clean of software before she bought it.She said Absolute had a right to collect her IP address in an effort to track the laptop, but that it broke the law when it intercepted her communications to track her and then passed those images to police.The plaintiffs allege that the police violated their Fourth Amendment rights, and that Absolute violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Communications Act and intentionally invaded their privacy.The case rests largely on whether Clements-Jeffrey knew the laptop she bought was stolen and whether she and her boyfriend then had a reasonable expectation of privacy.