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Privacy Democrats Government Republicans United States

Bipartisan Bill Would Mandate Warrant To Search Emails 103

jfruh writes: Bills were introduced into both the House and Senate yesterday that would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, requiring a warrant to search Americans' email messages stored on third-party servers even if they're more than 180 days old. The current version of the law was passed in 1986, and was written in an environment where most email users downloaded emails to their computer and erased them after reading them.
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Bipartisan Bill Would Mandate Warrant To Search Emails

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  • Good to see. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @11:18AM (#48997999)

    America calls itself the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

    We need to make sure laws are in place to protect our freedom, even if it does mean reduced security. We as a culture should be brave enough to deal with the fact we may have less than perfect protection as so we can have our liberty.

    We have law enforcement groups doing their job, and asking for more powers, because they want to do their job to the best of their abilities. However we as a culture will need to go. We know this could cost lives, but our freedom is more important, than the risks.

    • Re:Good to see. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @11:19AM (#48998015)
      Its sad that a bill is even required to make sure this happens.
      • Re:Good to see. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @12:00PM (#48998319) Journal

        The Supreme Court has migrated base rights into new areas of technology in the past:

        - Freedom of the press doesn't mean literally a printing press anymore, control of which was a back door way of controlling speech even if there was no direct censorship.

        - The SC ruled infrared scanners that passively looked through walls required a warrant, as the founding fathers, and Americans' expectations, were such that an area was secure from warrantless examination.

        As Americans move more of their life into the online virtual world, they carry with them the same expectation of privacy from warrantless search. The Supreme Court should overturn the outdated loophole that is from the telephone days, that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in data held by 3rd parties.

        Well, no, everybody has that expectation. The King of England would have abused it, and warrant requirements would have been included in the Constitution.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          - The SC ruled infrared scanners that passively looked through walls required a warrant, as the founding fathers, and Americans' expectations, were such that an area was secure from warrantless examination.

          Actually, the primary consideration is less "privacy" and more "the public can't get access to the equipment". As in you're free to use binoculars and telescopes to look in through the windows because they're something the public can get their hands on and anything seen through it is fair game.

          You're not

    • by Anonymous Coward

      America calls itself the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

      Let's be honest: that is nothing but PR. The freedom of U.S. residents has been restricted severely, it has a flawed democracy and its judicial system is ludicrous. As for braveness, much of this policy has been based on nothing but fear.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "it has a flawed democracy and its judicial system is ludicrous" -- It may appear to have a "flawed democracy" because it is a republic and not a democracy; its judicial system, even if not perfect, is one of the most stable in the history of the world with strict protections against judicial anarchy. Not quite sure what more You'd want.

        • by jythie ( 914043 )
          Even within the bounds of a republic, the US system has rather significant flaws. The system was cobbled together without many functioning models to draw from and we are kinda stuck with that legacy of amateur state builders.
    • This.
      And this again.
    • .... I don't want people to get comfortable with people thinking policies/bills/etc are the right way to protect privacy.

      Far better, for privacy, if technological solutions (email encryption) protected the privacy of email.

      If it's just protected with bills like this, it does nothing to stop programs like the DoD/NSA's "collect everything" projects; and from there it's only a small step for one agency to assist parallel reconstruction to get around the warrant.

      Better for everyone's privacy if the bill

      • "You have no expectation of privacy for unencrypted email. Any unencrypted email is free for anyone - law enforcements, ad-agencies, spammers - to read. If you want it private, encrypt it.".

        You know what follows this line of reasoning?

        a) "He looked into my home with FLIR!"
        b) Well, you should have insulated your walls with IR-opaque materials. No expectation of privacy, brah.

        a) He charged stuff to my credit card!
        b) Well, he read the numbers they require right off the card. No expectation of privacy, brah.

        a)

    • We need to make sure laws are in place to protect our freedom, even if it does mean reduced security.

      But our leader promised us that we didn't need to make such a tradeoff! https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      America calls itself the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

      I think platitudes like these are part of the problem, because politicians just cycle through them as they fail to deliver specific results on any one of them: after "Land of the Free", we get "The American Dream" or "Fairness" or "The Shini

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What about servers in other countries, such as countries that may actually care a tiny bit about privacy?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So for 95% of the world, there is no improvement in any way and for the remaining 5%, U.S. agencies have to ask foreign agencies to snoop on their behalf, or find some way in which they can claim this law does not apply or cannot be upheld.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . "

    We already have a law covering this.

    • "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,[a] against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . "

      We already have a law covering this.

      The 4th Amendment alone does not cover this issue fully, since it leaves open the possibility that the government or the legal profession gets to decide what is reasonable.

      The addition of the 9th and 10th Amendments (unspecified rights retained by and reserved to the people) is needed to close the loophole. This ensures that "reasonable" must also match what the people consider reasonable, not merely what members of two special interest groups consider reasonable.

      This, of course, invalidates many of the se

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @11:38AM (#48998159) Homepage
    If a warrant is required, its generally granted. If its not granted, the FISA courts could be used. and if the FISA courts with their 99% rate of acceptance should fail, then most multinational corporations have no objection to forfeiting every document youve written and word you've uttered to local state and federal authorities on principal. In some cases, like telecom, theyre outright exempted from prosecution through blatant legislative mandate and their own kangaroo system of arbitration courts. in others, you'll never know they were the ones to divulge your information thanks to a rats nest of NDA agreements and lack of transparency.

    Looking to congress and senate to ensure your security and freedom on the internet is as blind and misplaced as looking to the executioner to ensure your meals at the prison are healthy. https://prism-break.org/ [prism-break.org] is a collection of open source projects and applications with the altruistic, express intent to preserve your security and safety. Its not governed by politics, or election cycles, or "terror." It doesnt concede to stakeholders, doesnt serve to appease shareholders, and doesnt ask for your personal information. The internet doesnt need a bill or writ of law to protect its users, because its users have been iron clad in an armory of their own device for more than 30 years. Use crypto, study privacy, and enjoy a free internet.
  • Good ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @11:40AM (#48998171) Homepage

    Because the bill was idiotic ... wow, it's been on a server, you must have abandoned it and therefor we don't need a warrant.

    Right, because it should be totally OK for police to rifle through your stuff without legal authorization.

    It's about time they started enforcing the 4th amendment ... maybe we're finally starting to see some common sense and sanity applied to this stuff.

    Now if they can tackle the institutionally authorized perjury which is "parallel construction", we'll be getting somewhere.

    It's time to remind law enforcement that they are not, in fact, above the law.

  • ... except in the case of email. By passing this law, aren't they implying that email (and therefore all other electronic communications) aren't already covered by the 4th Amendment?

    How about passing a bill that gives mandatory minimum sentences for violating the Constitution?

  • Use to? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @12:19PM (#48998477)

    The current version of the law was passed in 1986, and was written in an environment where most email users downloaded emails to their computer and erased them after reading them.

    I *still* POP my mail down to my home PC from my ISP and Gmail, though I still have to periodically log into Gmail and purge "deleted" messages (what part of Delete don't you understand Google?) And, no, I don't read personal email elsewhere. And, no, I don't have a smartphone. Not a Luddite, just don't need to be *that* connected.

    • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

      That's a fully reasonable way to do things. But understand you are taking a much greater role of data ownership than is typical these days- mostly because email volume has increased, but also because the topics in emails have become a lot more varied since back in the day. In the 80s and early 90s a romantic email would be the punchline to a joke, as would an email making plans with all your friends. Email is the workhorse- if you think sending out a planning email is ludicrous, it's because you do all

      • by rHBa ( 976986 )

        it's because you do all that on a bookface or a tweetspace or an imgster

        Don't you mean on my Friend Agenda page?

        I always thought that sounded too much like Gender Bender page, not that there's anything wrong with that, it just made me laugh when I heard it, sometimes at inappropriate times in an episode.

    • by rHBa ( 976986 )
      Personally I use POP because I don't want to leave many GBs of email on my shared webhosting account with limited disk space. I also use a smart phone and would like to be able to read my latest emails from it (or potentially other devices).

      The compromise for me (which works quite well) is I configure Thunderbird to leave the last 2 weeks of email on the server. You can also configure Filters to remove emails from the server after filing them...
    • by sudon't ( 580652 )

      I *still* POP my mail down to my home PC from my ISP and Gmail, though I still have to periodically log into Gmail and purge "deleted" messages (what part of Delete don't you understand Google?).

      Yeah, me too. But he's right in that there's been a movement away from POP to IMAP and especially to webmail. Judging from most people I know, I'd say most people access email via a webpage, and that their saved mail resides on the provider's server.
      But even if, as you say, you download and delete from the server, there seems to be no guarantee it's gone from the server.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      I generally suggest that people just copy their email down so there will be a backup left on the server for when lookout eats itself or their PC dies.

  • by cfalcon ( 779563 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @12:24PM (#48998519)

    It's fashionable to shit on politicians no matter what they do, but I very much tire of "HarUMPH this does not go far ENOUGH!!!".

    But here's my question- is this bill just like, a great thing that we should have, or is there some hidden aspect to it (ex: if it had language that allowed for warrants to be issued automatically)?

    Because if it doesn't, super party and yay. If it does, presumably we'll hear about it soon enough.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @12:46PM (#48998713) Homepage Journal

    Better would be one that required the same for searching headers and other meta-data for all live and store-and-forward communication, including snail-mail, and one which would ban retention of this information by carriers after it is no longer needed for delivery- or billing-, or legitimate tracking purposes.

    In other words, stop the US Post Office from keeping the to/from information from mailed items for more than a few weeks after the item was delivered (you need to keep it a few weeks in case a customer claims it was never delivered). Similar, force phone companies to delete calling data after the bill has been paid and any bill-dispute time-period has elapsed UNLESS the customer has signed up to have the carrier keep such records.

    Is this gonna happen soon? Of course not - it may never happen as long as our country exists in its current form (i.e. all bets are off if there is ever a revolution - which I am *NOT* advocating) - but I still want it.

  • by BrendaEM ( 871664 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @01:03PM (#48998851) Homepage

    No one in Washington gives a damn about the US Constitution anymore. It won't pass.

  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Friday February 06, 2015 @01:32PM (#48999099) Homepage
    A secret warrant.
    From a secret court.
    Under authority of secret laws.
    Or alternately secret interpretations of secret laws.
    The secret warrant has a secrecy requirement to gag anyone from telling of the warrant's existence.
    Breaching the secrecy can result in secret arrests in the middle of the night by secret agents of agencies that must remain secret.
    Any secret trials may use secret evidence and secret testimony that the defense is not allowed to see or refute.


    But at least a warrant will be required. Whew! I feel safer already.
  • "The ECPA was written in 1986 and its provisions have been used by law enforcement to claim the right to access emails older than 180 days without a probable cause warrant." With that kind of logic, wouldn't they have the right to search, without a warrant, anything that you've owned for more than 180 days? Since when has there been an expiration date on the expectation of privacy?
  • Let's hope things work out better than they did in a couple of years ago [allgov.com].

  • Anybody here happen to know "Bipartisan Bill"s last name?
    I'd vote for him, especially if he is mandating a warrant! (for ANY-damn-thing these days!)

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