Tuesday, December 14, 2010

American Appeals Court says cops need warrants (with probable cause) to get e-mails

This is great news, both for e-mail users and for greater adoption of cloud computing. Contrary to Department of Justice lawyers (and too many precedents on their side), the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has found that stored e-mails can't be accessed by law enforcement without a valid warrant.

The court struck down portions of the Stored Communications Act, which had permitted law enforcement to get their hands on e-mails over 180 days old with only a subpoena.

This may have big implications for cloud computing. One of the problems with US law on this is that the Fourth Amendment has been interpreted to say it doesn't protect the privacy of information held by a third party. So if you hand info over to someone like a bank, a cloud provider, an e-mail provider, etc. the protection is very different than if you have it in your personal possession. Finally the courts may be seeing that handing over data to service providers is the modern reality and privacy protections should keep up.

This is a victory for The Digital Due Process Coalition and its supporters in the United States who are advocating for bringing due process into line with modern technology.

Check out some interesting commentary:

And the decision is here: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/10a0377p-06.pdf.

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