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Remote Computing Services (Part II)

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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[T]he term “remote computing service” is defined in the ECPA as “the provision to the public of computer storage or processing services by means of an electronic communication system.” 18 U.S.C. § 2711(2). The statute’s legislative history explains that such services exist to provide sophisticated and convenient data processing services to subscribers and customers, such as hospitals and banks, from remote facilities. See S. Rep. No. 99-541 (1986), reprinted in 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3555, 3564. By supplying the necessary equipment, remote computing services alleviate the need for users of computer technology to process data in-house. Id. Customers or subscribers may enter into time-sharing arrangements with the remote computing service, or data processing may be accomplished by the service provider on the basis of information supplied by the subscriber or customer.

In re JetBlue Airways Corp. Privacy Litig., 379 F. Supp. 2d 299, 310, (E.D.N.Y.2005).

An electronic bulletin board is an example of a “remote computing service” under 18 U.S.C. § 2711(2). Steve Jackson Games v. United States Secret Serv., 816 F. Supp. 432, 443 (W. Dist. Tex. 1993).

To be protected as a “remote computing service,” the provider must be open to the “public,” and not, for example, restricted to employees of a particular corporation. See 18 U.S.C. § 2711(2). See also Andersen Consulting LLP v. UOP, 991 F. Supp. 1041, 1043 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (interpreting “providing . . . to the public” under 18 U.S.C. § 2702 to exclude a corporate e-mail system that was made available to employees and a contractor but not to “any member of the community at large”).