Hah! Your Email is PRIVATE and requires a search warrant to be read by police (Dec 2010)Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals

Hah! Your Email is PRIVATE and requires a search warrant to be read by police (Dec 2010)
 


15 December 2010 at 9:28:55 AM
salon

Unreasonable search and seizure.. violation of the 4th amendment. What's interesting about this federal appeals court decision is that it strikes down part of a law that has been around since 1986. If your email was older than 180 days old, police didn't have to have a warrant. Technology has changed the reason to do that. From Cnet.com

The Stored Communications Act--which created the 2703(d) orders--was enacted at a time when e-mail was the domain of a small number of academics and business customers. Telephone modems, BBSs, and UUCP links were used in that pre-Internet era that was defined by computers like the black-and-white Macintosh Plus and services like H&R Block's CompuServe.

Since then, the Sixth Circuit ruled, technological life has changed dramatically:

Since the advent of e-mail, the telephone call and the letter have waned in importance, and an explosion of Internet-based communication has taken place. People are now able to send sensitive and intimate information, instantaneously, to friends, family, and colleagues half a world away. Lovers exchange sweet nothings, and businessmen swap ambitious plans, all with the click of a mouse button. Commerce has also taken hold in e-mail. Online purchases are often documented in e-mail accounts, and e-mail is frequently used to remind patients and clients of imminent appointments. In short, "account" is an apt word for the conglomeration of stored messages that comprises an e-mail account, as it provides an account of its owner's life. By obtaining access to someone's e-mail, government agents gain the ability to peer deeply into his activities.
Here's the PDF from the 6th circuit court of appeals.

Interesting discussion of whether the public's right to email privacy is "reasonable".

In confronting this question, we take note of two bedrock principles. First, the
very fact that information is being passed through a communications network is a
paramount Fourth Amendment consideration. See ibid.; United States v. U. S. Dist.
Court, 407 U.S. 297, 313 (1972) (“[T]he broad and unsuspected governmental incursions
into conversational privacy which electronic surveillance entails necessitate the
application of Fourth Amendment safeguards.”). Second, the Fourth Amendment must
keep pace with the inexorable march of technological progress, or its guarantees will
wither and perish. See Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 34 (2001) (noting that
evolving technology must not be permitted to “erode the privacy guaranteed by the
Fourth Amendment”); see also Orin S. Kerr, Applying the Fourth Amendment to the
Internet: A General Approach, 62 Stan. L. Rev. 1005, 1007 (2010) (arguing that “the
differences between the facts of physical space and the facts of the Internet require
courts to identify new Fourth Amendment distinctions to maintain the function of Fourth
Amendment rules in an online environment”).

So when are the courts going to stop the illegal warrantless spying on Americans that both the Bush and Obama administration are continuing to do?  In fact, it looks like one of the judges would LIKE that to come to his court.

Following NuVox’s policy, the provider would have destroyed Warshak’s old
emails but for the government’s request that they maintain all current and prospective
emails for almost a year without Warshak’s knowledge. In practice, the government
used the statute as a means to monitor Warshak after the investigation started without
his knowledge and without a warrant. Such a practice is no more than back-door
wiretapping.
I doubt that such actions, if contested directly in court, would withstand
the muster of the Fourth Amendment. Email, much like telephone, provides individuals
with a means to communicate in private. See Warshak v. United States, 490 F.3d 455,
469-70 (6th Cir. 2007), vacated, 532 F.3d 521 (6th Cir. 2008) (en banc). The
government cannot use email collection as a means to monitor citizens without a warrant
anymore than they can tap a telephone line to monitor citizens without a warrant.
The
purpose of § 2703, along with the Stored Communications Act as a whole, is to maintain
the boundaries between a citizen’s reasonable expectation of privacy and crime
prevention in light of quickly advancing technology. S. Rep. 99-541, at 4. To interpret
§ 2703(f) as having both a retroactive and prospective effect would be contrary to the
purpose of the statute as a whole.

 

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