The Supreme Court of New Jersey became the first court in the nation yesterday to rule that people have an expectation of privacy when they are online, and law enforcement officials need a grand jury warrant to have access to their private information.
The unanimous seven-member court held that police do have the right to seek a user's private information when investigating a crime involving a computer, but must follow legal procedures. The court said authorities do not have to warn a suspect that they have a grand jury subpoena to obtain the information.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said: "We now hold that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy protected by Article I ... of the New Jersey Constitution, in the subscriber information they provide to Internet service providers -- just as New Jersey citizens have a privacy interest in their bank records stored by banks and telephone billing records kept by phone companies."
"This decision reflects the reality of how ordinary people normally use the internet," he said. "'It's very nice to have the court recognize that expectation is reasonable."