Stored Communications Act (SCA)

A federal law enacted as part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (www.practicallaw.com/3-508-5021) (18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 to 2712). The SCA protects the privacy of:

  • Wire and electronic communications while in electronic storage (for example, e-mails stored on a server).

  • Electronic information about subscribers and customers to remote computing and electronic communication services (for example, e-mail service subscriber names).

The SCA, among other things, covers:

  • Requirements for federal and state law enforcement to compel the disclosure of stored communications.

  • Circumstances under which service providers may voluntarily disclose customer communications and records.

In the employment context, employers generally are not prohibited from accessing communications stored on their own wire or electronic communications services (for example, employer-provided e-mail service) as long as the access is authorized under the employer's own policies.

In certain circumstances, the SCA provides for monetary damages, injunctions and attorneys' fees for violations of its provisions. For more information about the applicability of the SCA in the employment context, see Practice Note, Electronic Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance: Stored Communications Act (www.practicallaw.com/1-506-8862).

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