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This article was published on July 23, 2015

    Privacy rights do not apply to butt-dials, US judge rules

    Privacy rights do not apply to butt-dials, US judge rules
    Napier Lopez
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    Napier Lopez

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    Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in Napier Lopez is a writer based in New York City. He's interested in all things tech, science, and photography related, and likes to yo-yo in his free time. Follow him on Twitter.

    If you’re prone to butt-dialing your friends, you might want to start locking your phone.

    A federal court in Cincinnati yesterday ruled that if you accidentally call someone – with your gluteal region or otherwise –  you’re not protected by a right to privacy if someone overhears sensitive information.

    It all started when Carol Spaw, assistant to the CEO of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Interntional Airport, was butt-dialed by James Huff, chairman of the airport’s board. Spaw overheard Huff talking to his wife about firing the CEO (listening for 91 minutes), so she took notes and reported it to other members of the board.

    Huff then sued Spaw, alleging it was illegal to intercept electronic or oral communications intentionally. The district court sided with Spaw, and the Huff’s appealed, leading to the case at hand.

    Appeals Judge Danny Boggs likened butt-dialing to leaving your windows uncovered – the law doesn’t protect your from passerby looking into your house. And while the Huff’s argued that the ruling would mean all users would be at risk of compromised privacy, the judge basically said it’s easy to prevent butt-dials by simply locking your phone. More specifically:

    “A person who knowingly operates a device that is capable of inadvertently exposing his conversations to third-party listeners and fails to take simple precautions to prevent such exposure does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

    Boggs is now sending the case back down to the local courts to decide whether Spaw is liable for spying on James Huff’s wife, who did not partake in any butt-dialing, but was nonetheless also overheard by the assistant.

    You Are Now Liable for Your Butt Dials [Bloomberg]

    Image Credit: Shutterstock