The next time you accidentally call someone from your smartphone with your own ass, make sure you don’t say anything that could make the person on the other end sue you.

This week, Bloomberg reports, a federal judge ruled in a peculiar case: while two members of an American corporation were traveling abroad, one accidentally called his secretary while the phone was in his jacket pocket. What followed was a conversation about replacing the company’s CEO in what sounded like a discriminatory manner, prompting said secretary to take notes and relay the information to her CEO. It was also a very, very long pocket dial, according to Judge Danny Boggs:

At one point, James Huff noticed that his personal iPhone had an open call with Spaw’s office phone. He mistakenly believed that it had been open for only one minute and twenty-nine seconds, when in reality it had been one hour and twenty-nine minutes. He testified that he immediately terminated the call, but cellphone records indicate that the call lasted one hour and thirty-one minutes. This suggests that he may have left the pocket-dial call open for an additional two minutes after realizing what had occurred.

The question posed to the court of appeals was whether these executives had any reasonable expectation of privacy during an unintended phone call—the judge ruled that they did not, comparing a butt dial to leaving your window curtains open:

Exposure need not be deliberate and instead can be the inadvertent product of neglect. Under the plain-view doctrine, if a homeowner neglects to cover a window with drapes, he would lose his reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to a viewer looking into the window from outside of his property.

Ergo, your dialing error can bury you in court:

In sum, a person who knowingly operates a device that is capable of inadvertently exposing his conversations to third-party listeners and fails to take simple precautions to prevent such exposure does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to statements that are exposed to an outsider by the inadvertent operation of that device.

In sum, the modern world is an assemblage of tricks and traps that will eventually ruin you and I advise you stay indoors in hot bath with a locked door or some sort of “panic room” setup.


Contact the author at biddle@gawker.com.
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