\

No email privacy rights under Constitution, US gov claims

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

Twitter Facebook

The Register: No email privacy rights under Constitution, US gov claims

On October 8, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati granted the government’s request for a full-panel hearing in United States v. Warshak case centering on the right of privacy for stored electronic communications. At issue is whether the procedure whereby the government can subpoena stored copies of your email—similar to the way they could simply subpoena any physical mail sitting on your desk—is unconstitutionally broad.

This appears to be more than a mere argument in support of the constitutionality of a Congressional email privacy and access scheme. It represents what may be the fundamental governmental position on Constitutional email and electronic privacy – that there isn’t any. What is important in this case is not the ultimate resolution of that narrow issue, but the position that the United States government is taking on the entire issue of electronic privacy. That position, if accepted, may mean that the government can read anybody’s email at any time without a warrant.

Update: the court first held that warrants are required. Later, a full panel dismissed the case on procedural grounds, leaving the issue unsettled.