The most insane part about the Laremy Tunsil situation at the 2016 NFL Draft is that the victim – Tunsil – was finding out about what was being committed against him at the same time we the viewers were. If there ever were a definition for “instant reaction,” this would be it. No matter your opinion on paying college athletes or the legality of marijuana, you have to at least feel bad for someone whose private information was released to the public against his will.
It’s still a mystery in regards to who hacked into Tunsil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as the means by which this was accomplished. There are still more questions that have yet to be answered, namely: when they do find the hacker, what type of penalties will he face? Moreover, what types of protection does the law provide to victims of hacking?
What Is the Stored Communications Act?
The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be, “secure in your persons, houses, papers and effects.” The framers of the Constitution could not have anticipated smartphones and cloud devices, but that is why adjustments and additions are continually being made to the law based upon language used in that Amendment. Here, we refer specifically to the “right to be secure” portion. A cell phone or computer falls under the scope of “effects” and the Stored Communication Act expounded upon the right to privacy as it relates to technology.
This legislation was enacted in 1986, and it covers laws and penalties related to illegally obtained information through electronic means. In relation to the Laremy Tunsil situation, it’s clear that someone hacked into his Twitter and Instagram either through his phone or computer and uploaded damaging personal information. That information was private, and is in clear violation of the law. So what will happen to the hacker once he is caught?
What Penalties Does the Hacker Face?
Every state has enacted laws in regards to hacking, and penalties for such grievances are not that much different than those laid out in section 2701 of the Stored Communications Act, which state that someone who, “intentionally accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided” with intent to commit “malicious destruction or damage” against the person whom they are hacking is subject to a fine and/or not more than five years in prison. It can be proven that the hacker acted with intent to damage Tunsil. Another interesting point is that the hacker doesn’t even need to be a “hacker“. If it turns out that it’s just someone close to Tunsil that knew or was able to figure out his password, the same five year sentence would be on the table.
Because he went to Ole Miss for all four years, we’re going to examine Mississippi state law in this regard. The case that a phone is a computer can be made, and a case could also be made that Tunsil’s Twitter and Instagram were hacked into through his computer. When an attempt to defraud someone by hacking into their computer is made, state law stipulates the the hacker be subject to a fine of $1,000 and/or no more than six months in prison. However, there is one nuance: when losses to the victim amount to more than $100 then the offender is subject to a $10,000 fine and/or five years in prison.
It is obvious that this is the case. Tunsil was considered a top 3 pick before the draft, but even if he had gone as the fifth pick, he still could have earned a little more than $23 million. As a direct cause of the video and text messages that the hacker released, Tunsil slipped all the way to the 13th pick, and will now only make around $12 million. So if the hacker is tried in Mississippi, he could be facing some very harsh penalties. If the hacker is tried in Florida, where Tunsil grew up, the penalties could include life imprisonment, as hacking and defamation of this nature is subject to felony charges.
It’s an unfortunate situation that Tunsil is facing, and it will likely be a while before all the smoke clears (no pun intended) and the offender is brought forth. If you want to avoid something similar happening to you, change your passwords every once in a while, especially after having a falling out with a significant other or a family member, as Tunsil’s stepfather is a suspect.
*Featured image provided y www.elbpresse.de (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons