Court Backs Privacy Rights For E-Mail

While I still would never expect total privacy from anything sent by email, there was a landmark decision today by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which does help protect our privacy. The government has routinely used the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) to secretly obtain stored email from email service providers without a warrant for the past twenty years. This was fought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other civil liberties groups as a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court ruled that the government must have a search warrant before it can search emails stored by service providers. This was the first circuit court to find that users of email have the same reasonable expectation of privacy in their stored email as they do in their telephone calls.

“Email users expect that their Hotmail and Gmail inboxes are just as private as their postal mail and their telephone calls,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “The government tried to get around this common-sense conclusion, but the Constitution applies online as well as offline, as the court correctly found. That means that the government can’t secretly seize your emails without a warrant.”

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