Keystroke logging (or “keylogging”) is the noting (or logging) of the keys struck on a computer keyboard. Typically, this is done secretly, so  the keyboard user is unaware his activities are being monitored.

Several cases throughout the country have examined an employer’s use of keylogging.  Recently, the Criminal Court of the City of New York held in New York v. Klapper  that an employer who installed keylogging software on office computers and subsequently monitored an employee’s e-mail activity did not, absent some showing of contrary e-mail protections or acceptable use policies, access a computer “without authorization” in violation of New York law. 

In some of the strongest language against the premise of e-mail privacy to date, the Court stated in its April 28, 2010 opinion:

[t]he concept of internet privacy is a fallacy upon which no one should rely. It is today’s reality that a reasonable expectation of internet privacy is lost, upon your affirmative keystroke. 

The Court found that e-mails are more akin to a postcard than a letter, as they are less secure and can easily be viewed by a passerby. An employee who sends an e-mail from a work computer sends a communication that will travel through the employer’s central computer and will be commonly stored on the employer’s server even after it is received and read. Once stored on the server, the employer can easily scan or read all stored e-mails or data. The same holds true once the e-mail reaches its destination, as it travels through the Internet via an Internet service provider. Accordingly, this process diminishes an individual’s expectation of privacy in e-mail communications.

In contrast to the strong language from New York, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in Brahmana v. Lembo that a plaintiff could proceed to trial in his case alleging his employer committed an impermissible “interception” under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) by using keylogging to discover the password to his personal e-mail account, and using the logged password, accessed his personal e-mail.  However, another California District Court found in United States v. Ropp that because the keylogger recorded the keystroke information in transit between the keyboard and the CPU, the system transmitting the information did not affect interstate commerce as the required by the ECPA.  Further complicating the issue, a federal court in Ohio questioned Ropp, suggesting in Porter v. Havlicek that it read the statute too narrowly by requiring the communication to be traveling in interstate commerce as opposed to merely “affecting interstate commerce.”

Because of the numerous issues arising from the use of electronic communications, and the varying court opinions on these questions, employers would do well to reexamine their use of keystroke monitoring or logging technology on a regular basis.

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Photo of Jason C. Gavejian Jason C. Gavejian

Jason C. Gavejian is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and co-leader of the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group. Jason is also a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) with the International Association of Privacy…

Jason C. Gavejian is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. and co-leader of the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group. Jason is also a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

As a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US), Jason focuses on the matrix of laws governing privacy, security, and management of data. Jason is co-editor of, and a regular contributor to, the firm’s Workplace Privacy, Data Management & Security Report blog.

Jason’s work in the area of privacy and data security includes counseling international, national, and regional companies on the vast array of privacy and security mandates, preventive measures, policies, procedures, and best practices. This includes, but is not limited to, the privacy and security requirements under state, federal, and international law (e.g., HIPAA/HITECH, GDPR, California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), FTC Act, ECPA, SCA, GLBA etc.). Jason helps companies in all industries to assess information risk and security as part of the development and implementation of comprehensive data security safeguards including written information security programs (WISP). Additionally, Jason assists companies in analyzing issues related to: electronic communications, social media, electronic signatures (ESIGN/UETA), monitoring and recording (GPS, video, audio, etc.), biometrics, and bring your own device (BYOD) and company owned personally enabled device (COPE) programs, including policies and procedures to address same. He regularly advises clients on compliance issues under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and has represented clients in suits, including class actions, brought in various jurisdictions throughout the country under the TCPA.

Jason represents companies with respect to inquiries from the HHS/OCR, state attorneys general, and other agencies alleging wrongful disclosure of personal/protected information. He negotiates vendor agreements and other data privacy and security agreements, including business associate agreements. His work in the area of privacy and data security includes counseling and coaching clients through the process of investigating and responding to breaches of the personally identifiable information (PII) or protected health information (PHI) they maintain about consumers, customers, employees, patients, and others, while also assisting clients in implementing policies, practices, and procedures to prevent future data incidents.

Jason represents management exclusively in all aspects of employment litigation, including restrictive covenants, class-actions, harassment, retaliation, discrimination, and wage and hour claims in both federal and state courts. He regularly appears before administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights, and the New Jersey Department of Labor. Jason’s practice also focuses on advising/counseling employers regarding daily workplace issues.

Jason’s litigation experience, coupled with his privacy practice, provides him with a unique view of many workplace issues and the impact privacy, data security, and social media may play in actual or threatened lawsuits.

Jason regularly provides training to both executives and employees and regularly speaks on current privacy, data security, monitoring, recording, BYOD/COPE, biometrics (BIPA), social media, TCPA, and information management issues. His views on these topics have been discussed in multiple publications, including the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle (SFGATE), National Law Review, Bloomberg BNA,, @Law Magazine, Risk and Insurance Magazine, LXBN TV, Business Insurance Magazine, and

Jason is the co-leader of Jackson Lewis’ Hispanic Attorney resource group, a group committed to increasing the firm’s visibility among Hispanic-American and other minority attorneys, as well as mentoring the firm’s attorneys to assist in their training and development. He also previously served on the National Leadership Committee of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) and regularly volunteers his time for pro bono matters.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Jason served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Richard J. Donohue on the Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen County.