The Fourth Amendment Protects Your EmailWednesday, December 15th, 2010 by Harry Lewis
A year and a half ago I blogged about the case of Steven Warshak, whose email the US government had obtained without a search warrant. At that point the opinion of the court was that no warrant was needed to obtain your email from your ISP. The reasoning was a bit like the original court view of telephone wiretapping–no warrant needed, since after all, what did you think was going to happen to your conversation once it left the confines of your house?
A US court of appeals has now held that the government needs a search warrant to get your email. “Given the fundamental similarities between email and traditional forms of communication,” the court writes, “it would defy common sense to afford emails lesser Fourth Amendment protection.” The court has elected to go with common sense. Bad people do a lot of bad stuff by email, but there is no reason why investigators shouldn’t have to take the same steps to justify their searches they would have to do to open postal mail or listen in on a phone call.
Read the EFF’s announcement, which has a link to the decision.