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Texas Poised To Pass Unprecedented Email Privacy Bill 262

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-mess-with-texas-emails dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A bill has reached the desk of Texas Governor Rick Perry that would give stronger privacy protections to email accounts than exist in any other state. If Perry signs it (or simply declines to veto it before June 16th), the legislation would force law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before reading somebody's email, even if the email has been sitting on the server for a long time. 'As we've noted many times before, there are no such provisions in federal law once the e-mail has been opened or if it has been sitting in an inbox, unopened, for 180 days. In March 2013, the Department of Justice acknowledged in a Congressional hearing that this distinction no longer makes sense and the DOJ would support revisions to ECPA.' This bill passed the state legislature unanimously. The article points out that the legislation won't protect from federal investigations, but it will set a precedent that the U.S. Congress will surely notice. An attorney with the EFF said, 'It's significant as proof that privacy reform is not only needed, but also politically-feasible with broad bipartisan support. And hopefully that will impact federal ECPA reform efforts by getting people on both of sides of the political aisle to work together to make meaningful electronic privacy reform a reality. The more states that pass similar legislation, the more pressure it will put on Congress to keep up with the changing legal landscape.'"
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Texas Poised To Pass Unprecedented Email Privacy Bill

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  • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @12:19AM (#43847243)
    Lots of folks like to mis-characterize Texas and Texans, but as a foreigner they seem to be doing plenty of things right. Their state economy is not borked like California, they have low tax, they value individual rights more than overbearing 'nanny' governance, and they have good political leadership. Ted Cruz for Prez 2016 would not be a bad choice it seems - he's very smart and would stop the current rot in DC.
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @12:46AM (#43847363)

      Lots of folks like to mis-characterize Texas and Texans, but as a foreigner they seem to be doing plenty of things right.

      This legislation would only affect organizations and individuals within the state of Texas, whose customers are also within the State of Texas, when dealing with local and state authorities. And even with that very significant limitation, the fact that internet traffic is, by definition, interstate, means that this piece of legislation has next to zero chance of surviving in Federal court. Federal law and jurisdiction trumps state law; And all a court needs to say to put an end to this is say "Interstate commerce! Congress only! Denied."

      Their state economy is not borked like California,

      Off topic, but I'll bite. [wikipedia.org] Texas is ranked 9 and California 14 in terms of federal tax dollars contributed versus taken as of 2007. Both are net positive, and within 1 standard deviation. Neither state economy is "borked".

      they have low tax,

      Continuing to go off topic... There's at least a million different taxes. Can you be more specific on which one?

      they value individual rights more than overbearing 'nanny' governance,

      The most important right, the right to life, is apparently eschewed -- Texas murders its own citizens at a rate higher than the rest of the country combined and has won numerous dubious awards for its human rights abuses, especially in prison. Whatever their values, their actions speak to a marked lack of respect for human life, a fact often highlighted in international press.

      and they have good political leadership.

      I'm not even sure how to approach this; It's fractally flamebait-worthy, if only because the popular opinion is that "good" should never appear in the same sentence as "political leadership", which itself is popularly held to be an oxymoron.

      Ted Cruz for Prez 2016 would not be a bad choice it seems - he's very smart and would stop the current rot in DC.

      Oooh, so epically off-topic now... le sigh. Okay then. Yes, another graduate of Harvard Law and Princeton will surely clean up the 'rot' of all the other politicians in Congress, most of whom also hold Ivy-league degrees. And I'm the Queen of England. And I don't want to vote for a man who thinks communists teachers at his alma matter are plotting to overthrow the government and often resorts to wild accusations of impropriety towards his opponents -- like suggesting a nominee to the secretary of defense position was accepting bribe money from North Korea. The dude's got a screw loose -- if you want to show how Texas is full of competent and rational people, make a better choice.

      • by Intropy (2009018)

        Texas murder it's own citizens? Weren't you just complaining about tin foil hat nonsense a few post up?

      • This legislation would only affect organizations and individuals within the state of Texas, whose customers are also within the State of Texas, when dealing with local and state authorities. And even with that very significant limitation, the fact that internet traffic is, by definition, interstate, means that this piece of legislation has next to zero chance of surviving in Federal court. Federal law and jurisdiction trumps state law; And all a court needs to say to put an end to this is say "Interstate commerce! Congress only! Denied."

        So State Police aren't bound by state law? What an amazing civics teacher you had!

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Off topic, but I'll bite. [wikipedia.org] Texas is ranked 9 and California 14 in terms of federal tax dollars contributed versus taken as of 2007. Both are net positive, and within 1 standard deviation. Neither state economy is "borked".

        Things have happened since 2007; California was doing really well during the high tech bubble despite its already broken state government, but it is in dire straits now. Nor does that table tell you anything about the quality of a state's government, whether its citizens are

        • Well said. Your debating opponent clearly has the totalitarian streak that infects the Left. I admire your stance on the death penalty. In my case, I'm pro-choice on abortions, but I do not demonize those who are pro-life: I believe they also have a good moral case to make. Demonizing one's opponent just to avoid listening is the *worst* crime (demonizing while also listening; well, that's just sport :) ).
    • by ArcherB (796902) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @01:00AM (#43847427) Journal

      Lots of folks like to mis-characterize Texas and Texans, but as a foreigner they seem to be doing plenty of things right. Their state economy is not borked like California, they have low tax, they value individual rights more than overbearing 'nanny' governance, and they have good political leadership. Ted Cruz for Prez 2016 would not be a bad choice it seems - he's very smart and would stop the current rot in DC.

      You are correct. I work with people from all over the country. These people have had to move to Texas because they couldn't find jobs in their original state. All of the, ALL of them absolutely love it here, even though they hate the weather nine months out of the year (Michiganders don't do well at 105). Most simply can't believe the freedom that they have here that they never knew they missed where they came from. "You mean I can just walk into a Walmart and buy a shotgun?" "I won't get arrested for having a gun rack on my truck?" "My state vehicle inspection was only $15. Where do I pay the rest of it?" "Why do people keep calling me offering me jobs that pay more money. Is this some sort of scam?" And finally, "I think there is a mistake. The company didn't take out for my state income tax."

      Don't listen to these other yahoos. They are mad because the majority of Texans value freedom and values over a strong central government and political correctness. Our education system is fine. The negative numbers they'll throw at you is due to the fact that Texas has one of the largest non-English speaking student population in the country. As for property tax, yeah, it's high, but it's nothing compared to the income taxes paid in other states. And to the AC that said that Texas is anti-science has no idea what he's talking about. Texas has one of the largest tech sectors in the country. "Texas" is even in the name of many of these tech companies. "Texas Instruments" ring a Dell... I mean BELL?

      Texas is an awesome place to live, provided all our imports don't use their voting power to turn Texas into the places they came from.

      and yes, Ted Cruz would make an awesome president. It's amazing how these people try to paint him as the new leader of the Republican party. Cruz challenged and defeated Rick Perry's hand pick successor for Kay Bailey Hutchinson's Senate seat. He took on the Texas Republican political machine and won. It's funny that these liberals constantly scream for someone to change the Republican party, but as soon as someone does so, they do everything they can to vilify him. Ted Cruz is the child of Cuban immigrants. He was born in Cuba and educated at Princeton. But because he is the Texas Senator and his name ends with an (R), they paint him as some sort of ignorant, backwoods, hick.

      • by Wild_dog! (98536)

        Who can't buy a gun at Walmart anywhere in the country?
        Who gets arrested anywhere for a gun rack?

        Sounds like you don't get out of Texas much.

      • I might consider moving to Texas if it weren't for some Texans that like to say everything about it is wonderful. They sound like used car salesmen, so I have to figure they're just as truthful. I've known plenty of people who love where they live, but they'll also tell you the down sides. The only other exception I know of is people who've moved to California, who'll tell you that everything there is wonderful. Not the natives though, who'll give you a more mixed and honest picture. My theory is that the m
      • by Ryanrule (1657199)

        troll harder bro. troll harder.

      • by the gnat (153162) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:33AM (#43850575)

        the majority of Texans value freedom and values over a strong central government and political correctness

        This is the state that defended its law criminalizing sodomy to the Supreme Court in 2003, and whose GOP still supports the (now unconstitutional) law. Which means that a majority of Texans are happy to jettison freedom as soon as it conflicts with their (religious) values.

    • by tukang (1209392)

      they value individual rights more than overbearing 'nanny' governance

      Here's some overbearing nanny governance for you: In Texas, the maximum penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana is 180 days and the offense is treated as a misdemeanor while in California the maximum penalty is a ticket and the offense is treated as an infraction.

      • by Pubstar (2525396)
        Anything under an ounce out here in California and the cops usually just smash it on the ground and tell you how bad drugs are.
        • "Smash it into the ground" is how you plant it. Maybe they're just concerned about next year's crop.
    • by SydShamino (547793) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:30AM (#43849439)

      The Texas economy is based on adding jobs that can't be done by native Texans - most have to be filled by out-of-state hires who were educated in places like Iowa or Massachusetts. Meanwhile, the Texas education system is woefully underfunded and isn't producing people able to fill those roles in the future.

      In other words, Texas leeches taxpayer money from other states' education systems to fund their low-tax business environment. It's not sustainable.

      Yes, I've a non-native currently living in Texas.

    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      So, in Texas, police still can arrest you for, in the privacy of your own home, consensually sticking your dick in places that are considered perfectly normal in most developed countries. But at least they can't read your email. Wow!
    • Their state economy is not borked like California, they have low tax,

      Just to clarify something: if both those things are true, there is likely a third thing that is also true about their economy. Either they must actually control spending, or they must suck down federal dollars or be selling some public good to make up the difference. The former would be quite impressive and indeed Texas would be truly a model. No one seems capable of controlling spending, every politician likes spending wildly in order to buy votes. Voters like it when "their guy" spends other people's

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This act is of historic significance for three reasons: One, it protects the privacy of Texas citizens when they're communicating using email. Two, it requires the government to get a search warrant. And three... uh oh, email privacy, search warrant, what was the third one again? Email privacy was one...

    • Email is a bad technology for privacy.

      Deterring local law enforcement or investigative agencies from browsing through an old email cash from 180 days ago to decide if someone is a good target for investigation for whatever reason is good. Setting a precedent that the government needs to ask before looking, even where it is pretty visible is good. It sets protocols. Bored cops cant just browse up the local mail server now. It is a bit of a deterrent to invasion of privacy. If they do they have to at least an

      • *cache I meant.

        Oh and I helped run a small hosted qmail server. And if the feds, or anyone came near our rack and touched our stuff without some kind of official anything. We would have shit bricks. No one would have touched our servers without our permission. They would have had to most likely take them via the threat of force. The hosting company had access cards, biometrics, and 24/7 surveillance. If they asked us we would have told them to come back with a court order.

        Though we never did anything that i

  • Rule of Thumb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MarkvW (1037596) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @12:34AM (#43847301)

    If a privacy bill makes it harder to catch corrupt legislators, then you can be pretty sure it is going to pass.

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      You say that as if it's a bad thing. But you can justify ever more egregious violations of privacy and civil liberties with a supposed need to catch crooks and criminals. Places like East Germany had very low crime rates.

      If we value our privacy and freedom, we have to accept a certain level of crime, because privacy and freedom make crime easier. In different words, in a free country, you have to trust the citizens by default, even if that trust is sometimes misplaced.

      • Places like East Germany had very low crime rates.

        In the official stats, but not necessarily in reality. The USSR claimed very low crime rates, but it's easy to rig the stats w/ a totalitarian government. Many people who lived there say the crime was actually quite high. Also, without protections like the Bill of Rights, the easy way to "solve" a crime is to pick someone you don't like, or a plausible J. Random Citizen, and railroad them. Case closed! To the extent that the Bill of Rights is enforced, it makes our law enforcement better.

  • by Greyfox (87712)
    Something Texas has done that I think is actually a pretty sensible idea? What... what have I become? YOU DID THIS TO ME!
  • It's not the state that really matters but the Feds, and although these protections are nice and worth of praise, I keep all my *important* person-to-person email at a server in Switzerland with some of the toughest privacy regulations exist, and all things that are *really* important, are always, with no exception, sent and received using GPG, and retrieved via POP with nothing kept in the servers there. I'll keep my own email backups, thanks.

    The funny thing is that I know I'm probably the most boring per
  • and all the ISP need to do is move the servers out of TX.

    • And then all you have to do is switch to an e-mail provider who values your privacy enough to not leave Texas.

      And seriously, who the hell uses their ISP's e-mail service anyway? I prefer to use a service independent of my ISP, so in the likely chance my ISP pisses me off I can just tell them to fuck off and switch to a new one... and not have my e-mail communications interrupted.

  • by Intropy (2009018) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @01:38AM (#43847607)

    US Constitution Amendment 14: "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."

    There's no legitimate way that government could be reading these emails 180 days and "opened" or not without a probably cause warrant. I understand the fact is they do, so it's great that Texas is passing the law to stymie that abuse, but how is it possibly justified to begin with? It's right there plain to read. That's prohibited. Has nobody taken it to court?

    • by jaa101 (627731)
      Apparently the trick in progress here is that people already gave their email to someone else, namely their service provider. The legal logic is that this borks their expectation of privacy, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katz_v._United_States [wikipedia.org] from 1967. One might hope SOTUS will revisit their decision in the light of the current state of technology but until they do you're stuck relying on legislative protect rather than constitutional.
      • by devent (1627873)

        I think the biggest mistake of Email was that it is per default in clear text.
        Normally you would expect for such a system that transports private messages over the world to be encrypted, but in the beginning Internet was only between Universities, so the whole politic was different.

        One Anonymous Coward is comparing an Email send to a mailbox or a postal office, like FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc. But there is one big difference: a physical letter is sealed and only the destination (and possible the origin) are visib

  • "Texas! You did something right!"

  • If anybody has something to hide no doubt most congress members do. Maybe they should be all for privacy in order to keep their own skeletons closeted!

  • Read the article. The law does NOT apply to federal authorities. That's why Holder is enthusiastically supporting it.

    And of course, there's no restriction against the FBI reading Texans' emails and then passing the info on to local Texas law enforcement...

    And since Texas has essentially no state law enforcement, this law applies only to Texas county mounties, who as we all know, are armed to the teeth with the latest most invasive ultra-high tech surveillance equipment and so pose a much graver threat to

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