Say someone has set their Instagram to private, or their Twitter to protect Tweets, etc.

Assume, somehow, someway I manage to bypass this without hacking their account.

Given that this may be against terms, would anything actually be against the law in doing this, given that I do not hack the person's account or any other accounts/servers in the process?

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    The answer to the question you asked is "thats probably perfectly legal", however the devil is in the "without hacking into their account". If you are accessing the data you either have their permission or you don't. If you do you are OK, if you don't, you are either exceeding your authority - which would be a contractual arrangement or you are hacking. If you log in and its a breach of the sites terms, thats not illegal as you did not agee to those terms (the other party might have issues though)
    – davidgo
    May 27, 2016 at 5:09
  • @davidgo I don't think that there is any use of a social media platform that is exempt from a TOS for that social media platform. The TOS has the force of a contract of adhesion and is automatically accepted by the act of using the social media platform.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 27, 2017 at 11:30
  • @ohwilleke A contract of adhesion is special only in that one party can not negotiate terms. IT STILL NEEDS ACCEPTANCE to come into force, and if not presented, there is no meeting of the minds and critically, no acceptance, so no, the TOS does not come into force unless the login page has advice that by signing in with it you agree to the TOS which is not something I have seen. The TOS might be actionable against the person whose account was used for failure to take adequate steps to protect their credentials, but that does not bind the poster (unless they are acting as an agent)
    – davidgo
    Sep 27, 2017 at 18:25
  • @davidgo The act of using the service is deemed acceptance in most cases. A pretty typical term is in the Facebook TOS which states "By using or accessing the Facebook Services, you agree to this Statement, as updated from time to time in accordance with Section 13 below." facebook.com/terms.php Usually this provision would be upheld by a court.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 27, 2017 at 20:17
  • @ohwilleke - Not so. Facebook can say what they like, it does not make it law. The provision will only be valid if brought to the person's attention prior. That is, for example, why a title retention clause is not binding unless it has been brought to the buyers attention before sale. Otherwise, if I had a clause in my terms of service that "by looking at this page you agree to pay me $1000" is not binding on people who have not been made aware of this first.
    – davidgo
    Sep 27, 2017 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


Let's assume what you mean by "somehow" is that you happened to learn of the user's password (and let's not assume that you engaged in interception of communication a.k.a. wiretapping, which is a separate crime 18 USC 2511). 18 USC 2701 makes it a crime to "accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided...and thereby obtains... authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage". I think the problem is that "hacking" is not actually a well-defined term: there is no law against "hacking".

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