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Google Backs Yahoo In Privacy Fight With DoJ 173

Posted by kdawson
from the in-yer-corner dept.
PatPending sends in CNET coverage of Yahoo's new allies in its fight with the DoJ to protect the privacy of its customers' email stored in the cloud. Google, the EFF, the CDT, and others have filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that the DoJ should be required to obtain a search warrant signed by a judge in order to compel Yahoo to turn over users' email messages. "Does email stored in the cloud have the same level of protection as the same information stored by a person at home? No, according to the Obama administration's Assistant US Attorney Pegeen Rhyne, who wrote in a government motion filed last month, 'Previously opened e-mail is not in "electronic storage." This court should therefore require Yahoo to comply with the order and produce the specified communications in the targeted accounts.' (The Justice Department's position is that what's known as a 2703(d) order — not as privacy-protective as the rules for search warrants — should let police read email.)" Update: 04/16 23:26 GMT by KD : he government backed off: "Saying the contested e-mail 'would not be helpful to the government’s investigation,' the authorities withdrew demands for e-mail in a pending and sealed criminal case." So no court ruling and no precedent.
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Google Backs Yahoo In Privacy Fight With DoJ

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  • Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kyrio (1091003) <slashdot&lurkmore,com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:29AM (#31872490) Homepage

    Is in your imagination.

  • 4th Amendment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:31AM (#31872506)
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:32AM (#31872524) Journal

    I'm glad we elected someone with a through understanding of constitutional law and a healthy respect for our civil liberties. It's not like he reversed himself [wikipedia.org] on the issue before even becoming President or anything....

    Meet the new boss, same as the old. When will we learn? Vote Democrat or Republican -- the only difference is which order you will lose your rights in.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao (908546) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:33AM (#31872532)

    "Previously opened e-mail is not in electronic storage."

    I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. If these emails can be accessed at a later date they're obviously being stored somewhere. Now I lose my right to privacy because I've opened an email?

    What exactly is the problem with just getting a search warrant?

  • Makes no sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thepike (1781582) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:34AM (#31872542)

    How are previously opened emails not in electronic storage? Are they electronic? Yes. Are they being stored? Yes. Thereby electronic storage. And how does the previously opened or unopened even come into play here? When I open my mail (and keep it in a filing cabinet in my house) is it any less mine than it was before I opened it? Would they still need a search warrant to find it, or is it not in "hard storage" because I opened it? I don't understand why people thing that storing things in the cloud makes them less mine (legally). When I rent a storage space barn they property I put in it is still mine, so if I'm using online servers to store information, that information should still be mine.

    At the same time, I'm glad to see Google, the EFF, and such coming to help Yahoo. Obviously it's because they don't want precedent set, but still it's nice to see them playing nice.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:40AM (#31872640) Journal

    Well, this would put a damper on quite a few things if the government's motion is granted.

    And what is the implication if I just keep marking things as unread?

    4th Amendment:The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    It does not say that papers and effects in our houses are protected. Rather it treats them separately, with no distinguishment between them. Also, "effects" does not solely mean "possessions" though it does certainly include them. I would contend that email is an 'effect'.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:42AM (#31872664) Homepage Journal

    The fact that due process frequently restricts the police to acting justly instead of going on fishing expeditions.

  • by will.perdikakis (1074743) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:43AM (#31872670)
    Interestingly enough, there are actually people that would be willing to give up the privacy of their email if it makes the world safer.

    You hear it all the time... "I am willing to take more time going through airport security, since it will make the skies safer." This, along with many other one-liners roll our forefathers over.

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. -Ben Franklin
  • Re:4th Amendment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:44AM (#31872678) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, I'm quite certain (as are you I believe) that cloud storage of my E-mail which is obviously restricted to me via a password system would constitute my effects, just as much as a bank safety deposit box would.

  • Re:4th Amendment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skine (1524819) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:44AM (#31872682)

    My email and safe deposit box are held by third parties, each of which has the ability to look inside.

    I would hope that the government needs a warrant two inspect the contents of my safe deposit box, and more importantly, that my bank would not allow them access without a warrant.

    The same goes for my email.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Friday April 16, 2010 @10:59AM (#31872844) Journal

    You hear it all the time... "I am willing to take more time going through airport security, since it will make the skies safer."

    I want to smack those morons. The only thing was required to prevent another 9/11 style attack was a locked cockpit door and the understanding that the pilots will LAND THE PLANE IMMEDIATELY if the shit hits the fan. The passengers and crew aren't going to roll over like sheep anymore. Every attack on an airline since 9/11 (and even on 9/11, see Flight 93) has been foiled by the passengers.

    That's all we needed. No body scanners, no liquids ban, no forced removal of your shoes, no security theater at all. Just plain fucking common sense. The fact that we soon won't be able to board an airplane without some Government bureaucrat looking at our genitals on a computer monitor tells me that the terrorists won.

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:01AM (#31872866)
    Since when is quoting Ben Franklin considered "trolling"? Sometimes the truth is the truth whether it hurts or not. There are things that we as Americans shouldn't be proud of, and watering down our individual rights should be one of them
  • Slippery slope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:02AM (#31872878) Homepage
    In used to dislike slippery slope arguments. They usually start by claiming A, even though is neccessary, should not be done because it will lead to Z. This ignores the fact that B-Y exist and we have a lot of precendents about NOT doing them, all of which prevent Z from being considered.

    But what I have seen happening with regards to internet privacy is a clear, real slippery slope. Mainly because of two factors:

    A. Is NOT and never has been neccessary. (I.e. if they can get a warrant to read my my snail-mail, they can surely get one to read my email.)

    B. Unlike the past centurey, technology now moves so quickly that lawmakers, judges and lawyers often are in the position of making judgments about things that they don't understand. So the slippery slope starts to be a real issue as they are forced to use less and less similar reference points as precedent instead.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:02AM (#31872892) Homepage Journal

    Well - why DID you think there were so many earthquakes? Our forefathers are having fits rolling over in their graves!

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jDeepbeep (913892) on Friday April 16, 2010 @11:42AM (#31873422)

    What exactly is the problem with just getting a search warrant?

    It is not convenient to have to bother with one.

  • by electricprof (1410233) on Friday April 16, 2010 @12:30PM (#31874050)
    IANAL but this seems to get close to the idea of itellectual property. If "effects" excludes email from protection because it's not physically tangible property, then why would IP enjoy protection? Of course I'm probably way off here.
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by natophonic (103088) on Friday April 16, 2010 @01:09PM (#31874622)

    The problem with getting warrants is that they take time to get.

    My brother-in-law is a homicide detective. According to him, he can get a warrant in under 30 minutes, if it's important.

    We'll be presented with all manner of 24-esque ticking-time-bomb-in-the-school-basement scenarios to illustrate why and when this warrant-less search power would be used. In reality, it will be used to dredge up dirt on status-quo-threatening politicians and political activists that will then be mysteriously leaked to the press.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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