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The US Government Wants to Read Your E-Mail -- Without a Warrant

The ever-shrinking right to privacy that we Americans enjoy could be dealt another blow sooner than we all think. On October 8, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati granted the U.S. Government a full-panel hearing to take another look at citizens' rights of privacy for what they're calling "stored electronic communications" (see a definition of that term in the link). In short, they're described as "any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photooptical system."

Basically, the case looks at what is considered a "reasonable expectation of privacy", and whether or not e-mail, since it is transmitted over Wi-Fi and other networks, is actually public. Meanwhile, e-mail is also broadcast to an ISP (your service provider) and then distributed to other ISPs. In other words, the government seems to think that they have the right to listen in on your e-mail conversations whenever they please, because you are, by definition, "broadcasting" them.

Normally, e-mail would be protected under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was intended to extend wiretap laws to e-mail. The US Government, however, is arguing that because E-mail is "broadcast", it's no longer private.

While government monitoring of e-mail could be construed as a reasonable attempt to harbor crime like terrorist plots and exchanges of child pornography, the notion that the FBI can call up any e-mail record at any time is, at best, disheartening.

So what do you think? Should we expect our e-mail to be private, or do we give up that right the second we hit the "Send" button?

From The Register

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Tags: e-mail, government, privacy, security



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