Big Brother Needs No Warrant to Snoop at Your Cloud Emails
Do you use Gmail or other email cloud service? Then you’d be surprised to learn that according to the law, the government can get your email without a warrant if it’s older than 180 days. David Kravets of Wired’s Threat Level explains:
As the law stands now, the authorities may obtain cloud e-mail without a warrant if it is older than 180 days, thanks to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act adopted in 1986. At that time, e-mail left on a third-party server for six months was considered to be abandoned, and thus enjoyed less privacy protection. However, the law demands warrants for the authorities to seize e-mail from a person’s hard drive.
A coalition of internet service providers and other groups, known as Digital Due Process, has lobbied for an update to the law to treat both cloud- and home-stored e-mail the same, and thus require a probable-cause warrant for access. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on that topic Tuesday.
The companies — including Google, AOL and AT&T — maintain that the law should be changed to reflect that consumers increasingly access their e-mail on servers, instead of downloading it to their hard drives, as a matter of course.
But the Obama administration testified that imposing constitutional safeguards on e-mail stored in the cloud would be an unnecessary burden on the government. Probable-cause warrants would only get in the government’s way.