Sunday, April 18, 2010
Yahoo Fights for Privacy; Ultimate Result Inconclusive
Via this story from Wired.com, Yahoo has "prevailed" in its efforts to resist a court order to turn over emails based on an assertion that the emails were "relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation," rather than on a warrant. Technically, at least in the legal sense, Yahoo actually prevailed. Federal prosecutors, who had requested the emails as part of their investigation into a sealed criminal case, dropped their request, meaning that Yahoo prevailed on whether it would have to turn the particular requested emails over in this case. However, in a broader sense, Yahoo's "victory" is an empty one, and could arguably be treated as worse than a clear loss. The reason is that the heart of Yahoo's dispute with the prosecutors was interpretation of the stored communications act. As I mentioned previously (see here), this law has been the subject of substantial controversy, and a definitive ruling could have helped clarify the situation. As it is though, the cloud of uncertainty remains, leaving future litigants in the same situation of potentially having to defy a court order when prosecutors request emails that are arguably material, but which can't be obtained with a warrant.