Opinion Editorials

Bill now requires warrant to search emails; you’re still not safe from government intrusion

being tracked emails

(OPINION) Before you go celebrate with a lot of inappropriate sending of emails and Dropbox/Google Drive-uploading, remember that we’ve seen this game before, and we know who wins.

I’m talkin’ to you, pal

Hey, Citizen-of-a-Free-Country! Yep, you there, with the baseball cap and the hotdog and all that. Just wanted to let you know that I can look at your emails whenever I want to, as long as it’s less than 180 days old. So that embarrassing chain email spam you actually sent to every single contact (READ FOR 10 YEARS OF GOOD LUCK!!!!) about 5 months ago… yeah, I can see that. And I don’t even need a warrant. I don’t need anything other than an administrative subpoena. I know you’re busy deleting all the email receipts for drunken Amazon purchases, like I really care about those, so I’ll just tell you – that means there’s no judge involved, at all.

Don’t you feel safe?

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It was unanimous, buddy

Confused about why I’m allowed to ignore laws and generally mess with your mind? It’s simple. I’m the U.S. Government – didn’t you know rules don’t apply to me? Especially when you’re talking about anything even vaguely related to the internet. That’s way too new to even think about regulating, right? Right.

As things stand under the Stored Communications Act, as they say, “This is your life now.” The House of Representatives is doing their darndest to upgrade your life just a little bit, but even that taste of luxury (that is, basic human privacy) isn’t going so well. The Email Privacy Act just unanimously passed in the House with a simple voice vote, which means literally nobody was even the slightest bit against it.

Not so fast there, skip

This update would mean a warrant is required for all electronically stored communication (yes, that means your cloudy stuff too).

Age is just a number, privacy is forever.

Before you go celebrate with a lot of inappropriate email-sending and Dropbox/Google Drive-uploading, remember that we’ve seen this game before, and we know who wins. Last April the same bill passed with the same unanimous vote in the House, but the Senate let it die of amendment-cancer, that all too common ailment in which a perfectly good piece of legislation is replaced by a festering tumor of loopholes.

And, even if the bill somehow goes into remission and passes in the Senate, even with a warrant, you still probably wouldn’t be told that the government was rooting around in your electronic underwear drawer.

Even with a warrant, you still probably wouldn’t be told that the government was rooting around in your electronic underwear drawer.Click To Tweet

Don’t worry about it, amigo

The Email Privacy Act technically allows email providers to tell their customers about a raid on their info, but a bunch of ‘exceptional’ situations – including those that will “likely result in” things like “flight from prosecution” or “otherwise seriously jeopardizing an investigation or unduly delaying a trial” – allow the court to delay notification for up to 180 days (there’s that 180 days again, isn’t that funny), and for bonus points, unlimited extensions to that delay.

So yeah, you’ll probably never know.

Ignorance and bliss and all that, right?

#EmailPrivacyAct

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