Government agencies are claiming they don’t need a warrant to read your email, and requiring a warrant is a burden.
I really don’t understand why we can’t make this kind of opposition a matter for immediate deposition from office. When agencies complain about needing to get a warrant, they are claiming they shouldn’t have to obey the fundamental law of the United States.
From the National Journal: “Agencies Say They Need Access to Americans’ Emails Without a Warrant.”
The law enforcement officials were reacting to bills from Sens. Mike Lee and Patrick Leahy, and Reps. Kevin Yoder and Jared Polis, that aim to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA.
In its current form, ECPA protects emails from government snooping for 180 days. When the law was initially drawn up in 1986, email providers routinely removed emails from their servers a month or two after they were delivered; users would generally download the messages they intended to keep. Whatever remains on an email server after 180 days is fair game for government to access, with just a subpoena—not a warrant.
Today, ubiquitous cloud-based email systems like Gmail, which offer gigabytes of storage for free, allow the average user to keep his or her messages—and calendars, contacts, notes, and even location data—on a provider’s servers indefinitely.
The ECPA Amendments Act would require law enforcement to get a warrant to access server-hosted information, no matter how old, and would require the government to notify an individual that his or her information was accessed within 10 days, with certain exceptions.
It is too bad this is merely an act of Congress. It ought to simply be an application of the Constitution. So, while the Supreme Court presumes to legislate on marriage and other issues, the legislative branch is forced to attempt to enforce the Constitution because the Supreme Court can’t be bothered.
But law enforcement officials expressed opposition to some of the bill’s proposed changes, arguing that its requirement for criminal warrants could leave civil litigators without access to important electronic information.
“The bill in its current form poses significant risk to the American public by impeding the ability of the SEC and other civil law enforcement agencies to investigate and uncover financial fraud and other unlawful conduct,” said Andrew Ceresney, director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Every one of the Bill of Rights “poses significant risk to the American public by impeding the ability” of the government to exercise power. If the FBI requires a warrant when going after suspects in violent crimes, why should the SEC have a lower standard?
It shouldn’t. Tech companies have pointed out that this refusal to grant privacy protections to cloud computing has had repercussions in the industry slowing down adoption of the technology.