New Crime: E-Personation

May 2nd, 2011
Data Security-Privacy

by Paul Arne

Impersonating another person is not always the best idea, and there are number of existing laws that “discourage” people from impersonating another to the detriment of the person being impersonated or the person being fooled. On the Internet, pretending you are someone you aren’t is fairly easy to do; therefore, impersonating another in cyberspace is certainly not an unusual activity. Arguably the most famous comic about the Internet is about “e-personation.”

California has recently seen fit to create a new law to criminalize impersonating another person on the Internet. It came into effect on April 1. “[A]ny person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense….”

It is not clear whether a special law just for Internet activity is needed, and there are some potential constitutional problems with the law. However, the new California law is another reminder to be careful on the Internet.

This information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not of Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP; see disclaimer at Contact Paul Arne for more information at