PSN Data Isn’t Protected by Fourth Amendment

January 19, 2017Written by Tyler Treese

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It’s not a good idea to have incriminating information stored on your PSN account (or at all) as it’s not protected by the Fourth Amendment. A Kansas judge recently ruled that Sony can take the information without a warrant as it wasn’t “unreasonable search and seizure.” This came up during a court case regarding child pornography where Michael Stratton, who went by the PSN handle of Susan_14, messaged multiple users asking if they were interested in child pornography.

After being reported to Sony several times for these infractions, Sony decided to view his PSN data. After doing so, they found several images of child pornography that was downloaded by Stratton and sent to other users. Afterwards, Sony shared the information with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who then contacted the FBI. This led to Stratton getting arrested, and his PlayStation 3 seized after a warrant was given.

Stratton’s defense argued that their client was protected under the Fourth Amendment, and that Sony couldn’t share his information without having a warrant first. This argument was shot down in court by Judge Daniel D. Crabtree, who said that the PlayStation Network’s terms of service “explicitly nullified its users reasonable expectation of privacy.” As such, Sony is free to view any PSN data, and are completely in the right in going to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in this case.

Here’s the official conclusion from the court’s website:

Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated. The court thus refuses to apply the exclusionary rule to suppress: (1) evidence NCMEC obtained from searching defendant’s electronic communications; (2) evidence law enforcement officers acquired from searching defendant’s residence; or, (3) statements defendant made to law enforcement during the search. The Fourth Amendment does not apply to Sony’s search of defendant’s information because Sony acted as a private entity. And, NCMEC, as a governmental entity, did not exceed the scope of Sony’s private search. Even if Sony acted as a government agent when it searched defendant’s information, the Fourth Amendment did not apply because defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the information he stored on the PSN. Finally, even if defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, the good faith exception applies and the exclusionary rule is not justified in this case.

(Source: Ars Technica)