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Obama Administration Wants Your Old Email 639

Nemesisghost wrote to us with a story about attempts to reform the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Under the act, messages left on a server are considered abandoned after six months and are trivially subpoenaed by law enforcement. A group of ISPs is lobbying to extend the protections afforded to locally stored messages to messages stored on third party servers, but the Obama administration is urging Congress not to reform the law.
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Obama Administration Wants Your Old Email

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  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:13PM (#35752114) Homepage

    Well here would be one big reason to avoid webmail or outsourced mail servers in general.

    Although most people really aren't "geeky" enough to avoid having someone else handle their email server. This law is just attempting to take advantage of the average n00b's clueless and disorganized nature....

    +...calling something at the bottom of that big pile on your desk "abandoned".

    They should enforce a standard like that for out of print creative works...

    It's all just a part of the Corporate/Individual double standard that both parties heartily embrace.

    • I leave my mail on the IMAP server of the hosting cooperative I'm in (for easy access anywhere, they keep backups so I don't have to, etc), and it looks like I unknowingly abandoned the data! I trust the cooperative infinitely more than I would trust e.g. gmail, but it looks like law enforcement can just as easily request access to my old mail there.

    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      I've got my own mail server, and it forwards my mail to gmail. I've been experimenting with going more cloud-based, and right now gmail is the best option for this out there. The next closest options I've found are Roundcube and Zimbra, and they're not nearly as nice.

      All my mail is safely stored on my own servers, and a copy is sent to gmail. So I'm safe if they ever go under. However, I'm in no way protected from anybody with access to Google's servers.

      What we really need are open source cloud solution

    • by niftydude ( 1745144 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @11:53PM (#35753586)
      If you are worried about privacy, then you shouldn't use outsourced webmail at all.

      I was astounded to find out the other day that on yahoo mail servers, the word delete doesn't mean what you think it means. It just ticks a bit in a db field which prevents the email showing in your inbox and being counted in your quota.

      However, the yahoo coders were too incompetent to leave the emails out of the search function.

      Imagine my surprise when I performed a search recently, and emails I had deleted and emptied from my trash in 2007 showed up!!!

      Are those emails considered abandoned (since I marked them as deleted) and available under this new legislation?
      There is no privacy in the cloud.
  • Cloud Computing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by denshao2 ( 1515775 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:14PM (#35752126) Homepage Journal
    Is my old data on a cloud based system considered abandoned if I continue to actively use the system but don't touch some items?
    • by SirCyn ( 694031 )

      Is my old data on a cloud based system considered abandoned if I continue to actively use the system but don't touch some items?

      This is one of the problems the ISPs want clarified; the law doesn't specify if the whole account has to be inactive, or just certain items. The law has many other problems because of changes in modern technology.

  • by mywhitewolf ( 1923488 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:16PM (#35752152)
    So they would require an additional warrant to investigate additional email addresses for emails older than 6 months? if someone had a PO box and a residential post box, does the law require 2 warrants to search each of the post boxes? the legal requirement should match this.

    However I disagree with the consideration that emails on a web server that are 6 months old on are abandoned.. i have 6 year old emails on the web that i still refer to occasionally, with a push to the more efficient cloud computing its important to recognize this, a web based email account should be considered the same as a PO box as far as privacy is concerned.
    • > So they would require an additional warrant to investigate additional email addresses for emails older than 6 months?

      Why would they need two warrants? They would need ONE warrant to access ALL emails. Currently, they need NO warrant to access old emails and ONE warrant to access new emails.

      The initiative wants to get rid of the provision for warrantless access. More power to that.

  • Just watch 'V for Vendetta' the other day, and got the feeling that governments around the world are becoming scary similar to British Government protayed in the movie. They are not killing people but it is truly scary the amount of invasion of the privacy the government wants to "Protect you from the terrorist " .
  • Abandonment Term (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:23PM (#35752196)

    Let's increase this term to Life + 95 years for e-mails sent by people, 120 years for those sent by corporations (including works for hire). For e-mails that are in the outbox, drafts, or any other unsent mail, it's life + 95 years, or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever is shorter.

  • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @08:36PM (#35752264) Homepage

    If the people don't have the right to be secure in their papers and effects (by extension, computers and emails), what right does the government have (by extension) to
    -buy weapons systems that didn't exist when the Constitution was written?
    -set up a cyberspace command?
    -use electronic money?

    When interpreting the people's rights, it's always done to the letter. When interpreting the government's rights, it's done expansively. [/rant]

  • You've done not one good goddamn thing since you were elected. Gitmo closed? Nope. Healthcare reform? Nope (the law that was passed is NOT reform, since it addresses none of the real problems of the existing system - just forces everyone into the same broken system) Patriot Act still in force? Check. Making war on yet another Middle Eastern country (hey, at least Bush got congress to go along) Check. In bed with big business? Checkerino (see also GE / Jeffery Immelt) This is complete and utter bul

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972