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US House Passes Bill Requiring Warrants To Search Old Emails (reuters.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Monday to require law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant before seeking old emails from technology companies, a win for privacy advocates fearful the Trump administration may work to expand government surveillance powers. The House passed the measure by a voice vote. But the legislation was expected to encounter resistance in the Senate, where it failed to advance last year amid opposition by a handful of Republican lawmakers after the House passed it unanimously. Currently, agencies such as the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission only need a subpoena to seek such data from a service provider.
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US House Passes Bill Requiring Warrants To Search Old Emails

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't realize the constitution applied only to recent correspondence...

  • So now they need to get a rubber stamp to get into old emails. I really don't see the difference, instead of getting the subpoena rubber stamped, they need a magistrate judge (non-appointed rubber stamper) to stamp them. This is an insulting joke.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So in your line of thinking all search warrants and subpoenas are "rubber stamped"? And in your little paranoid and delusional world who would get to determine what warrants and subpoenas are not rubber stamped? I will assume you also think all FISA warrants or NSL's are not necessary or needed when you, like most people, do not understand that any evidence collected under a FISA warrant or NSL is not admissible in court. While FISA warrants and NSL's provide powers that can override constitutional protecti

      • I have been robbed multiple times. I fail to see how any of these gee-whiz powers would have helped to catch the thieves.
      • Re:Rubber Stamp (Score:5, Informative)

        by borcharc ( 56372 ) * on Monday February 06, 2017 @10:51PM (#53816543)

        Your comment is very presumptuous about both my point and my views. I don't care about NSL's or FISA warrants. I don't care about going after terrorists or enemy combatants. I care about Americans in America who the government is abusing. I care about real people, whom I have personally spoken with, who have and are facing these issues, not people in some thought experiment. Some of them are non-Abrahamic religious minorities that the government seems obsessed with, mostly due to a lack of understanding of their religion. People and causes you have never heard about...

        I care about warrants issued by in district courts that function as rubber stamps. I read search warrants every day and more then you may suspect are very weak. They have a very diluted view on what probable cause is. These warrants are generally sealed and in many cases the subject of them is never notified that they were the subject of a search. I am not just talking about electronic records; mail, cars, homes are all searched in this way. I think you would be shocked at the number of packages that both state and federal search warrants are obtained for and are not found to contain anything illegal. In these cases the package is repacked and delivered to the recipient without notification. These searches as documented in my local courts are no more accurate than a coin toss. But if you are on the wrong side of the coin toss, good luck, your life just got incredibly difficult.

        If someone wants to make you a target than all an agent of the government needs is to claim to have been identified by an informant, that claim alone passes as probable cause in this world. The "informant" is never made available to the judge for questioning, they just take the agents word for it. The records of this search could stay sealed for years but don't expect a notification when its unsealed if you are an unknowing subject of one. As for subpoenas, they are rubber stamped, they are not subject to judicial review. The government just issues them to themselves. The court only gets involved if you say no.

        As for something that impacts me, if a warrant is actually supported by probable cause, and the judge makes an inquiry into the facts of the matter, then I am cool with it being issued. What more often happens is the judge reads the application and signs it. When you fail to be skeptical, then you become a rubber stamp. I believe that it should be very hard for the government to invade your privacy or convict you of a crime. Our society has given the government far too much latitude in these matters and it needs to be rolled back.

    • Re:Rubber Stamp (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gavagai80 ( 1275204 ) on Tuesday February 07, 2017 @03:22AM (#53817301) Homepage

      Even a rubber stamp is useful for documenting a trail of who did what and their claimed reasons. Far better than not documenting it, and will make people think twice about having a look just for fun/blackmail.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        It is nice to know who took the cookies from the cookie jar as long as there are consequences. If there are not, it means nothing.
        In fact it means more than nothing, because is uses resources that are not needed.
        It is as if the NSAA or CIA are asked "Do you do illegal things" and they go "Yeah, we do. LOL" and then nothing happens.

        It is nice for administration and stats, just like the numbering of Jews during WWII (Yep, going full Godwin here). It is absolutely meaningless and even will give people some id

  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @08:48PM (#53815923) Homepage Journal

    This would NOT be an issue in this same way if we were allowed to retrain physical possession of our email. That would put the 9 points on OUR side.

    Let me illustrate by example of how Gmail could work. There could be an option to store the email on our own computers. Generous as the google is with their storage allocation, I have way more than that in my OWN physical possession and I could, if allowed, possess my own email there.

    This could even be done in a way that is compatible with Gmail's business model. If I elect to use the option of local storage, then I would agree to run a special kind of search program on my computer. That search program would then issue search queries to the google's ad servers and, without ever examining my email on their servers, the appropriate advertisements could be served to my computer. (In my case, that means to be ignored, since I have a personal policy against feeding the google now that they've clearly gone to the dark side. Latest evidence I've read was in How Google Works .)

    If the google actually valued my privacy, they could throw in an option to encrypt the email end-to-end, even while it is on their servers. That could include while it is on their services for backup purposes, too, which would mean that they would never have any "possession" of the clear text version of my personal email, and I would retain the possession of the decryption key. If the House of so-called Representatives then wanted to read my email, they might need to consider the actual Bill of Rights. You know, the stuff about warrants and probable cause and all that jazz.

    Oh well. Nobody expects the Email Inquisition. Y'all have a nice day, hear?

    • Your post didn't indicate one way or the other if you know this already, but until everybody moved to Gmail, most email was stored locally (except for @yahoo and a few minor ones). Your mail program would use a protocol called POP3 to download the new email from the server, then the server would delete it. You can still do it that way.

      The disadvantage of local storage is that it's either stored on your laptop or your phone or whatever, so it's not accessible anywhere and everywhere with just POP3. If you

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        Yes, I know that quite well. Do you know that there were protocols before POP3? Ever heard of SMTP, for example?

        Look, I don't want to berate you for the shallowness of your reply. I would like to encourage deep and thoughtful discussions, even on Slashdot. Your reply was not part of one of them, and was closer to the category of "If you have nothing to say, then..." At this point I think I would be delusional if I were seriously anticipating such discussions on Slashdot, but my excuse is that I sometimes wr

        • so one of the many abuses of monopolists

          Google does not have a monopoly on email. You are free to choose another service, or run your own. The fact that you do not tells us that this issue is really not that important to you.

          The complicated reality is that the victims (AKA customers) are different and have different priorities and would exercise their freedom differently if they were allowed to.

          Other than those whose employers demand the use of gmail, and who are paying for these services, gmail users are not customers of google. The customers are the ones who pay for the data that google gleans from their gmail service. So you are wrong in referring to gmail users as "customers". They are "data".

          You are also wrong

          • Your inline approach is obviously confrontational. Might be sincere, too, but I doubt it, so I just scanned your reply before deciding to ignore it.

            I've concluded that my proposed solution to one part of the problem has obscured the deeper issue of "possession". Even though Gmail may be the specific email service where privacy is most abused and even though (I believe) there is no good reason for that abuse, the discussion should be redirected back to the original topic of "Possession is STILL 9 points of t

            • Your inline approach is obviously confrontational.

              My "inline approach" is how things were done before the Eternal September. If you find it confrontational for me to quote things you say and respond to them specifically, then stop saying such ridiculous things.

              so I just scanned your reply before deciding to ignore it.

              And in the spirit of ignoring my reply to you, you reply with a few hundred more words...

              the discussion should be redirected back to the original topic of "Possession is STILL 9 points of the law".

              This was one of your sillier and most irrelevant topics. "Nine points" refers to physical possession, not how law enforcement gains access to your email via warrants or subpoenas.

              I guess I should thank you [592200] for changing the subject when you diverted the discussion,

              I'm sorry, but what? You rambl

            • Your inline approach is obviously confrontational. Might be sincere, too, but I doubt it, so I just scanned your reply before deciding to ignore it.

              .

              You might want to look up what the word 'ignore' means...

        • > > This would NOT be an issue in this same way if we were allowed to retrain physical possession of our email.

          > You know you ARE "allowed to retain lhysical possession of your email" - that's POP3

          >> Yes I know quite well.

          Okay so when you wrote "if we were allowed to retrain physical possession of our email" and all that crap, you DID know it was bullshit. You just felt like pretending that you have to store your email with Google, even though you know better, for your silly rant.

          Now that i

      • Your mail program would use a protocol called POP3 to download the new email from the server, then the server would delete it. You can still do it that way.

        The problem is that in many places and with many services, when you supposedly "delete" email off of an ISP's or other email service's servers, they will still retain a copy for some period of time, in some places mandated by law, for the express purpose of use by law enforcement and the TLAs. Many are dropping POP3 support entirely for IMAP.

        Strat

        • That'sv true.

          A *hint* as to whether your email is actually deleted or not is if the provider delivers 100 spams a day to you (possibly marked with a header for you to use), or if they filter spam out pretty well.

          An old-school provider who lets you see *all* of your spam, and maybe marks it with a Spamassassin score, is *less likely* to be retaining it. It takes ten times as much resources to retain if spam isn't filtered out first.

    • Perhaps I'm missing the point, but I think that this is pretty easy to accomplish with a personal email server. Gmail != email. Of course, you can still set up gmail to download email, and I believe you can even uncheck the "store on server" button (though of course, who's to say that really causes them to delete the emails in a timely fashion once downloaded...).

      Alternately, I believe there are numerous email providers which claim not to store your details/downloaded email (for a fee).
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by shanen ( 462549 )

        That is actually touching on a good point that I didn't directly address. If you are rich enough and value your privacy that much, then you certainly can try to control your email better by using your own email server. Doesn't always work as well as it might. There was a certain H. Clinton who tried that approach...

        Rather than chase (or get sucked) down that rabbit hole, let me just say that I think regular people should also have the freedom to control their own email. They should even be allowed to use "f

        • OOhhh, this just gets better and better.

          then you certainly can try to control your email better by using your own email server. Doesn't always work as well as it might. There was a certain H. Clinton who tried that approach...

          H. Clinton was perfectly successful in running her own email server, which proves that pretty much anyone can. Where H. Clinton failed was in the content of the email that her server handled, not her personal email. Had her personal server not been used for State Department communications, it would not have become an issue.

          They should even be allowed to use "full-service" email systems such as Gmail without sacrificing their Constitutional rights.

          If people choose to use a commercial service and agree to the contract, then they should be free to do that. The Constitution doesn't have much to

        • Ah, understood.

          The funny thing is that our federal physical mail system already requires a warrant to open first-class mail [uspis.gov] -- though something tells me that a federally-run email provider might be met with some skepticism, at least by a number of /. types... ;)
          • by shanen ( 462549 )

            If you [by] are replying to me, then where did you pull "federally-run" out of? Not anything I've written lately. And snail mail? Not one of my main concerns. It's the secret shotgun warrants that most concern me.

            The funny part of this "discussion" is that there is apparently some consensus around my actual point, but my illustrative example has apparently driven some people nuts. Or maybe they are Russian trolls practicing their English while waiting for more serious assignments? Sort of joking, but I real

    • This would NOT be an issue in this same way if we were allowed to retrain physical possession of our email.

      Uhhhh, the entire purpose of email is to send it to other people. Perhaps hundreds of other people. How do you retrain [sic] possession of something you must distribute to others for it to be of any value?

      There could be an option to store the email on our own computers.

      There is. Get a domain name. Pay for business class internet service. Install an email server. Oila, as much as can be possible, you store your email on your own computer.

      As for end-to-end encryption and keeping your email secret, you still have to distribute the decryption key to the recipients, each of

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by shanen ( 462549 )

        Too shallow. Also feeble. No reply merited.

        • Yes, I understand, pointing out that you could have what you claim to want right now is "shallow" and "feeble". It's more important to complain about how a free service that you've chosen to handle your email for you does things you don't like.

          Of course, the fact that you cannot actually have what you want anyway is also "shallow" and "feeble", and you have no reply available to that.

      • Uhhhh, the entire purpose of email is to send it to other people. Perhaps hundreds of other people. How do you retrain [sic] possession of something you must distribute to others for it to be of any value?

        True but perhaps the wrong question. The important question to my mind is how do you secure the message (legally and/or technologically) against intrusive snooping by the government and perhaps others? Both in transit and in storage. Not an easy question to answer and I think the legal piece of it is very important and somewhat behind the technology.

        • The important question to my mind is how do you secure the message (legally and/or technologically) against intrusive snooping by the government and perhaps others? Both in transit and in storage. Not an easy question to answer ...

          Really? Two answers have already appeared here. Run your own server (so you control your local store), and/or encryption. Neither is that hard.

          and I think the legal piece of it is very important and somewhat behind the technology.

          Technological problems do not need legal solutions. Use the technology that already exists and you don't need "just one more law" to make your life perfect.

    • Since when are you "not allowed" to register a domain for $15, establish it on one of the many dynamic DNS services available, and then put in an MX record for your domain, and use the port forwarding on your NAT router to send ports 25, 110, 143, 465, 993, and 995 to your old desktop PC or laptop that you don't use anymore, running Linux and Postfix?

      I've been hosting my own email for over a decade, on a range of different ISPs. Whoever says you aren't allowed, is lying.

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        Nothing except the willingness to spend the time and energy to understand all of the technical details and the time and money to implement them. If you put those barriers in front of all users of email, then you certainly will reduce the scope of the problem. Unfortunately, due to the network effects, the value of email would be greatly decreased.

        Oh wait. Doesn't even work. You would have to force each of your correspondents to learn the same things and expend the same amounts of time and money.

        Now I see th

        • Oh wait. Doesn't even work. You would have to force each of your correspondents to learn the same things and expend the same amounts of time and money.

          That's right, you cannot retain possession of your email because YOU HAVE TO SEND IT TO OTHER PEOPLE FOR IT TO BE WORTH ANYTHING. It's like the old saying that two people can keep a secret, but only if one of them is dead.

          I am suggesting that it should be available even for the peasants who want to use such convenient systems as Gmail.

          It is available to anyone who cares enough to do it. Did you ever hear of PGP or GnuPG? Nothing stops you from applying full encryption to all of your email, except the fact that when you send the key to the recipients they will have possession of copies of your email in the clear. I suppo

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Wow, you're an arrogant asshole.

          "I want a spectacularly personal service at no cost, and I want to have the hosting company lose massive amounts of money to do it. And when someone gives real alternatives that can be done today, I'm going to shit all over them about how it's too hard, and that they are 'shallow'."

          Were you born with this completely undeserved superiority, or have you just deluded yourself into it?

    • Let me illustrate by example of how Gmail could work. There could be an option to store the email on our own computers. Generous as the google is with their storage allocation, I have way more than that in my OWN physical possession and I could, if allowed, possess my own email there.

      There IS an option to store your email on your own computer. There always has been. That option didn't go away just because Gmail came along. Gmail is a choice, not a requirement.

      If the google actually valued my privacy, they could throw in an option to encrypt the email end-to-end, even while it is on their servers.

      Expecting an advertising company to value your privacy is an idiotic thing to do. Nobody is going to value your privacy more than you do. If it matters to you then take measures to secure it. The tools exist and have for a long time. If you use Gmail that is a tacit admission that you don't care so much about the privacy of

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        Think I mostly agree with you, though there are some nits that could be picked. However, right now I am in the process of putting my Slashdot affairs in order for another hiatus, perhaps permanent, so this is basically a boilerplate response drafted for the pending replies.

  • by Chris Katko ( 2923353 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @10:21PM (#53816401)

    Don't you love all of the GOP bashing even though the GODDAMN BILL WAS WRITTEN BY A REPUBLICAN?

    You want to give Trump an extra 4 years? Keep bashing and invalidating people who are trying to do good things.

    This article is shit. Where's the actual votes? How can you bash the GOP as if you know they ALL opposed it? Do we know what Democrats tried to oppose it and sell out their country? No? Nah, let's ignore them because it messes with "Muh Narrative."

    Here's a link with more detail than the OP's article and the plumb sum of every comment here too:

    https://www.congress.gov/bill/... [congress.gov]

    It doesn't have the votes talled yet. (And the article didn't even mention the fucking bill HR number?) But it's got the list of cosponsers which is a pretty obvious indicator of SUPPORTERS of the bill.

    64 Republicans
    44 Democrats.

    What's that? What? MORE REPUBLICANS cosponsered the bill? No! Surely, the GOP's only goal is to "Take Muh Freedoms!", remember?

    Goddamn. Everyone posting here who whines about "The System" doesn't realize their freaking ignorance and blind "Support the Team!" politics are the reason this country is so damn gridlocked in the first place.

    And I say all of this as a both-side voting, MODERATE. But nah, feel free to disregard my actual facts under the "He's probably a just Nazi" routine and continue ignoring the GOP people helping you (and ignoring the crimes of the Democrats who DON'T help you). That'll sure make the USA a better place.

    • You seem to be awfully angry about something. I can't tell what it is you're angry about because you seem to have replied to a post on this thread which doesn't actually exist. Either that or you've just invented a post which is a mismash of every slashdot stereotype and replied angrily to that. That's fair enough, there's a fine history of people doing that here.

      it is however customary to mark such posts by signing off with "mod me down, I've got karma to burn".

    • You want to give Trump an extra 4 years? Keep bashing and invalidating people who are trying to do good things.

      What an odd threat. Recognize those (rare) times Republicans do the right thing, or they will help rather than hinder the incompetent president they nominated?

      Well, thank you for making my metaphor explicit. Trump's power functions like he is holding the country hostage, and even his own party sees it that way.

  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @10:51PM (#53816545)
    As has been mentioned elsewhere, it is not necessary to master the technical hurdles present to set up a private email server. If you choose to use a free email service such as Gmail, you must accept the limitation that they have never guaranteed the privacy of their service. This, in turn, gives the government a valid argument that since the emails are not already truly private they should be subject to inspection by government agencies.

    My simple recommendation? (As has also been mentioned elsewhere), use GPG, PHP, or some other form of encryption.. While not a perfect solution, it should prove adequate to the majority of end-user privacy needs. Waiting for the government or a free internet email provider to protect your privacy is not unlike waiting for a burglar to return your stolen property.

    • Damned Android auto-correct.
      • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

        I did not think anything on this thread would make me laugh harder than the shanen/Ob/raymorris interaction, but I was wrong.

    • use GPG, PHP, or some other form of encryption.

      When I want to REALLY encrypt my email, I write it in Perl. Even better than obfuscated C. I'd use lisp but I want the recipient to be able to read it.

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Monday February 06, 2017 @11:13PM (#53816631) Journal
    The option of keeping a lot of email on a server for a long time due to the acoustically coupled modem limitations needed legal protection.
    In 2017 your ISP email account is as legal protected as your home computer with all its files....
    Email kept only at home on a computer, email that stayed on an ISP or server for years or just been networked along day or hours later. Email later found on some server when the server was under investigation with valid court paperwork for the server, accounts.
    The other aspect is email on the move along the pipes and tubes of a providers network. Can a police charity public/private partnership scan every email and attachment to see if every file, link was under investigation by law enforcement or might be of interest to law enforcement in real time?
    If that file was on a server for days or years or just moving from an account to another internet user?
    Now all emails are been scanned at the server level anyway by different agencies globally for a lot of different reasons.
    Police charity public/private partnerships will still have the server side real time scans of all files.

    An easy FISA warrant or NSL will still get in, then allowing for legal, local domestic legal work.
    The FISA warrant or NSL won't be used in a domestic court setting but if every US provider is in some way connected to other nations why not collect it all...
    With new raw data sharing rules, domestic agencies will get all that raw bulk data, no more minimisation for domestic US users.
    So new domestic privacy laws are great but as many other domestic agencies are now getting raw real time data ....???
    NSA to share data with other agencies without “minimizing” American information (1/13/2017)
    https://arstechnica.com/tech-p... [arstechnica.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 07, 2017 @12:55AM (#53816953)

    Once upon a time slashdot would have rejoiced at news like this. The notion that privacy is serious and given precedence- celebrated. Now we have page after page of politics, and drivel about this not being good enough. This is a win. Requiring warrants is as good as it gets. Be happy.

    • Doesn't mean a thing until / unless passed by the senate and signed by the president. If the president won't sign, then there is yet another process to go through.

      So while yes, this isn't a bad thing as it stands, it is not yet a good thing.

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