Software

E-mail protection arrives, search warrants now required


A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit of the United States Courts ruled today that e-mail is protected, and law enforcement now requires a warrant before searching e-mail archived at ISPs.

Map of the Sixth Circuit

The Supreme Court rarely overturns that heartland circuit, just as its three-judge panels are rarely overruled by the entire appellate panel of the Circuit. Civil liberties confirmed by this heartland court are not easily overturned, so this decision is solid and unlikely to face challenge.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and a coalition of Internet law professors spoke on the behalf of civil rights and argued that e-mail is a vital communication tool. Users' e-privacy must bear constitutional protection to assure Americans free speech and un-stifled debate.

This overturns the Reagan-era Stored Communications Act (SCA) provisions, which allowed warrantless seizure of e-mail without requiring investigation subjects be aware of the search (and so having no chance to protest). So, ISP operators have one burden lifted, the SCA requirement not to tell their customers of e-mail search. One EFF legal expert termed the no-notice warrants "...absolutely routine. It is and has been the Department of Justice and presumably local law enforcement's standard practice for obtaining e-mails over the last 20 years."

Will the administration's Justice Department use its shrinking credibility in further appeal in quest for the right to open your e-mail without a warrant and without notice, especially when facing e-mail woes of its own? Should the Congress restore no-notice, no-warrant search of your inbox without judicial review? Join the discussion.

10 comments
BALTHOR
BALTHOR

When the Internet was engineered into existence the engineers worked even with the United Nations to write all of the computer Internet laws.These judges did not write law they interpreted law.

zetacon4
zetacon4

As I have done for years, whenever you need to send confidential info, zip it up using a password. I'm sure you can figure a way to share that particular password with the intended recipient (not in the same email!). If you use a long sentence or other random letters, you should create a security key too large for the Feds to easily break. Results, they move onto the next victim. There are other very good methods of sending info by a secure means.

rjkirk_50
rjkirk_50

I think it is silly to assume that the Bushies will not attempt to challenge this decision.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

This only addresses mail stored on ISP owned servers. They have other ways.

wmlundine
wmlundine

No...niether do I need crypto. I have been imbued by my creator with certain inalienable rights.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

Your creator will undoubtedly protect you from the feds storing masses of emails carelessly including online passwords, creditcards. (If their creator happens to be the same one maybe, and not the TurtleGod or Shiva the Destroyer?) And I'm sure the FBI IT flunkies will read the Constitution of the United States, re-affirming your inalienable rights each time they data-mine your email. And like the Ohio intern today who had data on state employees in his car, they'll take good care of your private emails: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9025263

wmlundine
wmlundine

And if you do how did you come by them? (please do not say you fought for them unless you are 250yrs old.)

mikec
mikec

You know I don't mind my e-mail being read if it is flagged for a good reason. But I do believe I should be notified by the courts & they should have to provide evidence why they are reading my personal information.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

the feds copying receipts with creditcard #s or password to mission critical systems and carelessly storing them (as I'm sure they do) on their systems? Now your info of various kinds is even more exposed to ID theft. The FBI has already shown that 1000's of un-authorized access of classified data happens regularly. http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9024764 How much better care do you think they'd handle this unclassified data?

K7AAY
K7AAY

Should the Congress restore no-notice, no-warrant search of your in-box without judicial review? Is your privacy your obligation to assure, through the Firefox S/MIME extension and other strong crypto? Or, does all your information want to be free to the Feds?

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