Eugene Volokh writes:
California Penal Code § 530.5(a) provides that it is a crime to “willfully obtain personal identifying information … of another person” and use it “for any unlawful purpose, including to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information without the consent of that person.” “Personal identifying information” means “any name, address, telephone number” or one of many other identifying items (such as Social Security number, bank account number, and the like). And “person” covers not just individuals but also “any other legal entity,” including corporations.
Now you might think that this is a statute aimed at identity theft — i.e., impersonating someone to get credit, goods or services. And the statute is even called the California “identity theft” statute. But it is, oh, so much more! As California courts have read its terms, the statute
- reinvents criminal libel law (California’s criminal libel was repealed in 1986)
- makes it a crime to commit the tort of disclosure of private facts, so long as the disclosure uses a person’s name,
- makes it a crime to commit the tort of interference with contract, so long as the defendant’s actions used a person’s or business’s name,
- makes it a crime to infringe a person’s right of publicity,
- and likely much more.
Pretty surprising — it surprised me. But that’s the logical implementation of how California courts have read the statute.
Read more on Washington Post.