The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986
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Excerpts from the
Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986
(ECPA)


Section 2510. Definitions

As used in this chapter -
(4) "intercept" means the aural or other acquisition of the contents of any wire, electronic or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical or other device;
(8) "contents", when used with respect to any wire, electronic or oral communication, includes any information concerning the substance, purport or meaning of the communication;
(12) "electronic communication" means any transfer of ... intelligence of any transmitted in whole or in part by a ... radio ... system that affects interstate or foreign commerce, but does not include -
any wire or oral communication;
any communication made through a tone-only paging device; or
any communication from a tracking device...;
(16) "readily accessible to the general public" means, with respect to a radio communication, that such communication is not -
scrambled or encrypted;
transmitted using modulation techniques whose essential parameters have been withheld from the public with the intention of preserving the privacy of such communication;
carried on a subcarrier or other signal subsidiary to a radio transmission;
transmitted on frequencies allocated under part 25, subpart D, E, or F of part 74, or part 94 of the Rules of the [FCC], unless, in the case of a communication transmitted on a frequency allocated under part 74 that is not exclusively allocated to broadcast auxiliary services, the communication is a two-way voice communication by radio; Section 2511. Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited


Except as otherwise specifically provided in this chapter any person who -
intentionally intercepts ... any wire oral or electronic communication;
intentionally uses ... any electronic, mechanical or other device to intercept any oral communication when

(ii) such device transmits communications by radio, or interferes with the transmission of such communication;


intentionally discloses ... the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication ...; or
intentially uses ... the contents of any wire, oral or electronic communication ...; shall be punished as provided in subsection (4) or shall be subject to suit as provided in subsection (5).


(g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person - (i) to intercept or access any electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public;

(ii) to intercept any radio communication that is transmitted -
by any station for the use of the general public, or that relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress;
by any governmental, law enforcement, civil defense, private land mobile, or public safety communications system, including police and fire, readily accessible to the general public;
by any station operating on an authorized frequency within the bands allocated to the amateur, citizens band, or general mobile radio services; or
by any marine or aeronautical communications system;

(iv) to intercept any wire or electronic communication the transmission of which is causing harmful interference to any lawfully operating station or consumer electronic equipment, to the extent necessary to identify the source of such interference; or

(v) for other users of the same frequency to intercept any radio communication made through a system that utilizes frequencies monitored by individuals engaged in the provision or the use of such system, if such communication is not scrambled or encrypted.

(Paragraph (4)(b)(ii) is where ECPA specifically mentions cellular and cordless telephones, public land mobile radio system and paging services as being prohibited from monitoring, subject to a $500 fine.)

Section 2512. Manufacture, distribution, possession, and advertising of wire, oral or electronic communication intercepting devices prohibited

(1) ... any person who intentionally -

(b) manufactures, assembles, possesses, or sells any electronic, mechanical, or other device, knowing or having reason to know that the design of such device renders it primarily useful for the purpose of surreptitious interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications ...

shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Section 2513. Confiscation of wire, oral, or electronic communication intercepting devices

Any electronic, mechanical, or other device used, sent, carried, manufactured, assembled, possessed, sold, or advertised in violation of section 2511 or section 2512 of this chapter may be seized and forfeited to the United States.

Section 2520. Recovery of civil damages authorized

(this section spells out that victims of ECPA violations may sue for damages and legal fees)
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