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Spyware Cos. Exposed to New Privacy Risk at 6th Circ.

The Sixth Circuit ruled Tuesday that surveillance software manufacturers can be held liable under federal wiretap law for spying done by a customer who purchased their product, a holding that should force a broad range of companies to take a hard look at how they are building and marketing their products.

In a 2-1 decision reversing the dismissal of the dispute, the appellate panel concluded that the lower court was wrong to let Awareness Technologies Inc. off the hook for wiretapping claims lodged by a man who claims his communications with a woman were surreptitiously intercepted by her husband using the company's WebWatcher software.

"This case is definitely one to watch," Greenberg Traurig LLP shareholder Carolyn McNiven said. "The Sixth Circuit’s ruling allows the parties to develop the record including evidence about knowledge and consent. The eventual outcome could profoundly impact companies doing business in this space.”

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