In a landmark case, a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that email privacy is protected by the 4th amendment. If the government wants to obtain your private emails from your ISP, they will need a search warrant. The court stated that users expect to have the same level of privacy in their emails as they do in their phone calls and postal mail. This is what the court concluded:
Given the fundamental similarities between email and traditional forms of communication [like postal mail and telephone calls], it would defy common sense to afford emails lesser Fourth Amendment protection…. It follows that email requires strong protection under the Fourth Amendment; otherwise the Fourth Amendment would prove an ineffective guardian of private communication, an essential purpose it has long been recognized to serve…. [T]he police may not storm the post office and intercept a letter, and they are likewise forbidden from using the phone system to make a clandestine recording of a telephone call–unless they get a warrant, that is. It only stands to reason that, if government agents compel an ISP to surrender the contents of a subscriber’s emails, those agents have thereby conducted a Fourth Amendment search, which necessitates compliance with the warrant requirement….
I can see no reason why a company such as Google should be treated any differently than say the post office. We users have an expectation of privacy and this should be protected.
One would hope that Congress, when they have the time, would change the fundamental laws governing protecting emails in the same manner that phone calls and postal mail are protected.
What do you think?