Thursday, June 21, 2007

Court Rules E-Mail Deserves Constitutional Protections

A federal appeals court has unanimously ruled that the federal government violated the 4th Amendment constitutional right against unlawful search and seizure when it searched stored e-mail records without a warrant in a fraud investigation. A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recognized that e-mail communication is an ever-increasing method of communication, and analogized it to telephone conversations in granting it constitutional protection. This decision is an important victory for civil liberties advocates in the emerging field of Internet privacy. The government had argued that there was no expectation of privacy since service providers can filter email records against viruses, spam and pornography. The court distinguished those actions by comparing them to postal workers' screening mail for drugs and explosives. The Court's decision is encouraging, as the federal government has increasingly attempted to expand its rights to obtain personal information without a warrant. To read the opinion, click on Warshak v. United States

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