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“Skeletons” in the Smartphone

Which laws protect the secrecy of correspondence and what you should do if your partner has read messages without your knowledge.

He errs who believes he has nothing to hide. Everybody has a "skeleton" in the smartphone, and a "tempest in the teapot" of your family life can be brought about even by an innocent smiley from a colleague.

Meanwhile, any person has the right to the privacy of e-mail and messenger messages. And if your partner (friend, wife, or husband) reads your correspondence and this fact becomes known to other people, apart from you, the charges of unlawful access to information may also be pressed by your interlocutor.

What should you do in a situation when you have come to know that your correspondence is no longer a secret to your partner? INTELLECT's Senior Associate Mikhail Khokholkov explains.

Which laws protect correspondence privacy?

The Constitution of the Russian Federation guarantees that each and every person has the right to privacy, the right to personal and family secrecy, and the right to protect his/her honor and good reputation (part 1 of Article 23). It also guarantees the right to the privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal, telegraph, and other communications. This right may only be restricted by virtue of a court judgment (part 2 of Article 23).

These provisions of the constitutive Law of Russia are consistent with Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: everybody has the right to respect for his/her private and family life, his/her dwelling, and his/her correspondence.

The Russian Civil Code prohibits, without a citizen's consent, the collection, storage, dissemination, and use of any information on his/her private life – in particular, any details of his/her origin, place of stay or residence, private and family life (Article 152.2).

Federal Law of the Russian Federation No. 149-FZ dated July 27, 2006, "Concerning Information, Information Technologies, and Information Protection" guarantees privacy protection and inadmissibility of the collection, storage, use, and dissemination of information concerning a person's private life without his/her consent.

Thus, the main condition for providing protection is the absence of your consent to viewing your correspondence. Moreover, it doesn't matter who exactly has read your messages – your spouse or a stranger who has hacked your smartphone.

What punishment is reading another person's correspondence fraught with?

To read and take offense or dissemination the correspondence in the social networks accompanying it with caustic remarks – it's consequences that separate the moral/ethical aspect of the matter from its legal aspect.

In the first case, liability may ensue, perhaps, in the form of (frequently mutual) insults and reprimands spoken out in the heat of family quarrels accompanied by bruising.

In the second case, the consequences would be yet more intricate and more serious, up to being charged with a criminal offense.

Most commonly encountered cases are those where the offender would be brought to civil law liability in the form of moral harm compensation for dissemination of personal messages (i.e. private life details) in the public domain.

Criminal liability may ensue in particularly serious cases: Article 138 of the Russian Criminal Code "Violation of Secrecy of Correspondence, Telephone Conversations, Postal, Telegraph, and Other Communications" contemplates punishment in the form of a fine, compulsory or correctional work.

What should you do if your partner has read correspondence which is not to be seen by him/her?

In the first place, talk to your partner – ask him/her not to disseminate your correspondence since the consequences of such dissemination may also affect him/herself.

If, however, the partner (more likely than not, a former one already) has managed to publish the correspondence in the Internet, we recommend that you ask the website owners to delete it. All social networks have dedicated feedback forms, and, in most cases, support service employees respond to such requests.

The grounds for requesting that a post be deleted should be selected with reference to specific circumstances – for example, confidential information, inaccurate and/or insulting data, disclosure of personal data, etc.

If your request didn't help and you do not intend to leave all that in the Internet, record the fact of information dissemination (for example, by making a screenshot) and go to the police or to court.

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