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Senate Committee Approves Stricter Email Privacy 60

New submitter DJ Jones sent in good news in the attempts to update privacy rights for stored electronic communication. From the article: "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would strengthen privacy protection for e-mails by requiring law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant from a judge in most cases before gaining access to messages in individual accounts stored electronically. The bill is not expected to make it through Congress this year and will be the subject of negotiations next year with the Republican-led House." The EFF seems pretty happy with the proposed changes, but notes that the bill also reduces the protections of the Video Privacy Protection Act in order to allow Netflix et al to sell your viewing history.
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Senate Committee Approves Stricter Email Privacy

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  • by martin ( 1336 ) <maxsec@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday December 02, 2012 @11:30AM (#42161249) Journal

    So how does this work with the laws allowing those nice national security letter to be issued by the fbi etc?

    • by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @12:32PM (#42161553)

      Didn't bother to read?

      Service providers would be prohibited from handing over e-mail, and Mr. Leahy would get rid of the strange 180-day rule that the government can now use to compel disclosure. To access any e-mail content, law enforcement officers would be required to obtain a search warrant from a judge after demonstrating probable cause. The amendments would also oblige officials to give those whose e-mail they are reading a copy of the search warrant.

      NSL are optional, as optional as strong-arm tactics can be, and typically require a lawsuit to fight back. If providers are prohibited, NSL carries no weight - they simply respond "I can't, that's illegal."

      For the reading impaired: It doesn't mean providers *will not* hand over info with just a letter, it means the ones who care will point out that it's not that simple.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @11:39AM (#42161299) Journal

    This might be the first time that the CIA and the FBI managed to collaborate on convincing the senate of the importance of privacy...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Why is a bill needed for this? We have the 4th amendment already!

    • by thaylin ( 555395 )
      Because recent court cases have held that the 4th amendment does not cover emails, stored on public servers
      • Unless it's encrypted perhaps?

        That would allow a "reasonable expectation of privacy"

        • Reasoanble expectation of privacy does not require diligence of that nature. If i go into a bathroom stall with no door on it, i am still afforded a reasonable expectation of privacy. Comms should be no different.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Recent court cases have evidently set some bizarre and creepy precedents, then.

        • More like the ECPA of 1986 didn't anticipate that we would en masse turn our private documents over to third party companies who happily data mine our privates for profit and at the same time expect these documents would be considered private in some way.

          Silly behavior I think.

    • Because it is "on the internet". And as we've seen time and again, "on the internet" trumps petty, meaningless things like that consti... constipation? whatever.

  • Because of Petreaus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @11:49AM (#42161353)

    Here's an example of how legal protections for privacy only get enacted when someone powerful gets screwed.

    The timing sure makes this look like a reaction to the Petreaus scandal. From the news reports it sounds like the only reason Petreaus got caught is because of what had been basically carte blanche for the FBI to dig through any webmail system. Under normal circumstances the FBI should not have been investigating random threatening emails to a civilian - it was only because the civilian knew an FBI agent that wanted to bone her that the FBI even got involved. It seems implausible that a judge would have issued a warrant under those circumstances, but the FBI didn't need one under current law.

    It's been 25 years, long enough that most people don't remember Robert Bork's supreme court nomination casuing his video rental records to become embarrasingly public and ultimately resulting in the passage of the Video Privacy Protection Act. So its not much of a surprise that the VPPA is getting dismantled - despite the actual threat being worse today since everything is in massive centralized databases now instead of paper records in a local store.

    • Bork's records were a direct result - largely because Bork wanted to expand executive power, and claimed that people had limited privacy rights.

      The timing in this case does make it look suspiciously related, but you missed the point. It was not related to Petreaus. This is fear of their own mails being released and searched.

      In the Bork case, it was probably an employee who handed over a hand written list to a reporter, to prove a point. And the punishment was only $2500. In this case, it is the DOJ who

  • the bill also reduces the protections of the Video Privacy Protection Act in order to allow Netflix et al to sell your viewing history.

    Just who does Netflix think they are, anyways? The internet is not, like, a big truck that they can just use to spy on everyone.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      My question is are they selling individual data or aggregated anonymous analytic data. Big difference.
    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      The law was kind of an outdated one. It seems like the purpose of it was to prevent the kid at blockbuster from disclosing the senator's history of borrowing those porno-betamax tapes.
  • All senators want their email left under lock and key at all times. Since they can't be exempt, better law-it!

    I'm serious.

  • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @06:30PM (#42163701)

    Encrypt everything.

    Patriot act/NSLs/gag orders don't work unless a third party has goods able to be surrendered.

    Requiring keys to be coughed up from data owner (still) requires notification to the owner and a court order.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein