Yes, I know we all call it something else other than "pocket dialing," but congratulations to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for using a more polite term.
Huff vs Spaw (Download in PDF) was issued this week. I don't usually comment on substantive law issues, but the facts on this one are pretty interesting. James Huff inadvertently placed a pocket-dial call to Carol Spaw while he was on a business trip in Italy. He discussed the possible firing of Spaw's supervisor first with a colleague and then later with his wife. When Spaw recognized what the conversation was about she put it on a speaker phone and she and a co-worker listened for 91 minutes, taking notes and even bringing in another phone to record part of the conversation.
Huff and his wife sued Spaw alleging her acts were "in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a); disclosing the contents of intercepted oral communications, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(c); and using the contents of intercepted oral communications, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(d)."
The court ruled that James Huff had no claim because he had no expectation of privacy, having failed to use available technology (such as turning the phone off before putting it back into his packet) to avoid "pocket dialing." But the court held "Bertha Huff’s statements do qualify because she cannot be held responsible for her husband’s pocket-dial." So the case was reversed and remanded to proceed with her claim.
I take no particular issue with the court's analysis of this complex federal law. But this is just another example of how hard it is for the law to keep pace with today's rapid technology changes. I'm pretty sure when Congress was working on the laws for wiretapping and interception of electronic communications, no one was thinking about "pocket dialing." And the conclusion that your privacy wasn't invaded if this happened with your phone, but could be if it was another's phone is interesting to say the least.