MarketWatch: Emails are not private. A message may have one sender and one recipient but it can, with little effort, be read by a third party. In fact, despite the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unlawful searches, federal agencies do not necessarily need a warrant to read emails older than six months.
Concerns over such government snooping were raised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which last week noted a “troubling picture” of email surveillance practices by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice. The agencies may be taking advantage of a component of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which requires warrants only for emails that have been stored on a third-party server for less than 180 days.
Documents reviewed by the ACLU showed that the FBI may be reading emails and other electronic messages without a warrant, and that different U.S. attorney’s offices may be applying “conflicting standards,” the group says. “It is time for Congress to step in and standardize the requirements and require warrants across the board,” says Nathan Wessler, a staff attorney with the ACLU. The report follows a similar review of IRS documents. [Continue reading…]