The IRS And SEC Want To Snoop Through Your Email Without A Warrant; Don't Let Them

from the speak-up,-fix-ecpa dept

We've talked a lot about ECPA reform -- which is the incredibly outdated "electronic communications privacy act" which actually makes sure that you have less privacy than other forms of communication. This isn't necessarily on purpose, but because the law was written in the mid-1980s when email itself was a relatively new concept. It includes some bizarre distinctions between opened and unopened emails and if a message has been "left on a server" for more than 180 days (at which point it's considered "abandoned" and not subject to a warrant). Obviously it never anticipated the kind of internet we have today. It also goes against basic 4th Amendment principles and treats electronic messages differently from physical messages.

There actually is a fair bit of support in both Congress and the White House to fix this... if we can get enough public support behind it, which includes getting more people to sign this petition. As with SOPA, there's a strong suggestion that if this petition tips the scales at 100,000, we can get the White House to come out in favor of ECPA reform.

What's standing in the way? Well, a bunch of government agencies, honestly. There are the obvious ones like the DOJ and DHS. That's to be expected. They always want to make it easier to snoop through emails and written communications. But apparently some of the strongest voices trying to block ECPA reform within the government are coming from the SEC and the IRS, because they too see plenty of advantages in trying to snoop through emails without having to take the trouble of getting a warrant.

As I write this, I'm participating in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Chris Calabrese from the ACLU, Mark Stanley from the Center for Democracy and Technology and Julian Sanchez from the Cato Institute. This coincides with a day of action involving a bunch of companies and organizations trying to get more people to speak out on the importance of ECPA reform. And, finally, the folks at TechFreedom have put together a great infographic, which we've also embedded below.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:15am

    Google DOES! -- So STOP IT!

    Can't neglect the commercial snoops if you wish anything resembling privacy. Everything any corporation gets can be legally sold to gov't.

    Google wants you to know you're under our ever improving state-of-the-art personalized surveillance! We learn your interests, habits, and associations! All "free", courtesy of other corporations!

    06:14:49[h-197-4] [ This suppresses the kids from fraud of using my screen name. ]

     

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    Todd Knarr (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    My thought is that one clarification is needed: to distinguish between the server(s) that hold the end-user's mailbox itself vs. the intermediate servers that handle getting mail from the sender to the end-user's mailbox. POP3 may have downloaded mail from the final server to the user's own machine, but very few people use POP3 anymore. Most use IMAP or webmail, which don't download to the user's machine. I don't think the ECPA as written intended to treat the user's own mailbox the same as an intermediate SMTP server. Simply add clarifying language: that "server" in the ECPA excludes any system or systems which are the final destination of the user's e-mail.

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 1:32pm

      Re:

      This is an excellent point.

      Remember, people, don't keep any data on third-party servers. Especially email. If you want webmail or imap, it's pretty easy these days to set up a machine in your own home to provide that.

       

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        nasch (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 7:34pm

        Re: Re:

        If you want webmail or imap, it's pretty easy these days to set up a machine in your own home to provide that.

        As long as you don't mind your email being inaccessible from elsewhere if your home power or internet goes down.

         

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    Namel3ss (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:36am

    Was going to sign the petition but...

    realized I already did. I'm signer #30,814.

     

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    RyanNerd (profile), Dec 5th, 2013 @ 10:53am

    OOTB has been in the forrest yelling about Google forever now

    Just hit report and move on. You can't fix or teach stupid.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 11:34am

    what needs to happen is for more people to find out that THEIR mail etc is being looked at/listened to/scrutinised. perhaps then they would realise how big a deal it is, particularly if something happens to get that 'private info' more attention than they would like!

     

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    Anonymous, Dec 5th, 2013 @ 3:55pm

    Any law whose title ends with the word "Act" is a bad thing.

     

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    Angry Citizen, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 4:35am

    Them first.

    I'd be happy to be audited right after they are.

    And I'd be willing to get drug tested right after Congress does.

    I'd even take a lie detector test right after Cheney....

     

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    The Real Michael, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 8:16am

    They already do look through people's e-mails and messages. All they're really trying to do is make it 100% legal to violate your Constitutional rights.

     

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      nasch (profile), Dec 6th, 2013 @ 7:35pm

      Re:

      All they're really trying to do is make it 100% legal to violate your Constitutional rights.

      By they you mean the Congress that passed this law in 1985?

       

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    Reini Urban, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 12:31pm

    So according to this interpretation IMAP is unsafe, only POP is safe. We are not in internet stone-age anymore and need to trust our providers. This is hurting the US hosting industry.

     

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    edwinalowes, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 1:58pm

    Americans are indeed GOYISHE KUP

    The one thing that i remember the most clearly over the past 40 years of my school days at Brandeis University in 1970's are my student adviser's words that when he was growing up that his grand parents and parents used the term "‘goyishe kup,’" meaning that the "Non-Jews are Stupid"
    Later in life I learned that the exact translation of "GOYISHE KUP" means that the "Cattle are STUPID"..
    I remember him recalling what his father told him when he was growing up in Eastern Europe. One of them being that when his father was in high school he and a group of friends would skip school early on Fridays and go over to his friend's father's butcher shop. That they would buy at cost any cows , that had not been butchered by the end of the day on Friday before the start of Shabat . They would take the cow home and wash it and then the boys would procede to "beat the udders of the cows so that they would swell up and turn pink" so as to sell them to the "GOYISHE KUP" as milk producing cows.
    The part that I remember him asking me if the East Europeans are so "naive, so gullible and so stupid" to buy an old "non milk producing cows" from a bunch of young Jewish Boys.
    So re-thinking of it now I agree with the Jewish saying that the "GOYISHE KUP" are indeed" Stupid" as they believe that a Bunch of Arab Moslem Kids who were not able to Fly a Cessna Airplane took it upon themselves to FLY a Jumbo 747 and outwitted the US Militaryand Civilian authorities. The "Jewish Lightning Insurance Scam" of the 1960's is still alive and well has been put to good use by Larry Silverstein in putting 15 million down and comming out with 7 billion dollars for buidings that no one wanted to buy because it would have cost a billion dollars to remove the asbestos from. Then on top of that the people in America actually believe that they actually decide who is elected President or for that that actual VOTE is really counted and makes a difference in deciding who represents them in the White House and congress.

    http://www.911missinglinks.com/

    bollyn.com

    http://www.zengardner.com/911-consummate-expose/#comment-37173

    AE911truth.org, Rethink911.org, fromthetrenchesworldreport.com

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Rzlb4Zwl74&feature=related

    http://w ww.youtube.com/watch?v=8YaFGSPErKU&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxnpujfanUM

    http ://www.dailypaul.com/253111/new-9-11-truth-documentary-among-most-watched-on-pbs-this-week

    http://www .youtube.com/watch?v=ltP2t9nq9fI&feature=youtu.be

    whatreallyhappened.com rense.com

    undergrounddocumentaries.com, http://www.brasschecktv.com

    http://www.youtube.com/user/ae911truth


    Oy Veh, I agree that the American Non-Jews are indeed "GOYISHE KUP" or "STUPID CATTLE"!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2013 @ 3:41pm

    Even if we don't let them they will do it anyway.

     

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    Red Barchetta, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 5:32am

    Again - I am soooooo sick of even hearing about maybe loosing any privacy!
    This is so simple to take care of though - I would put it like this "if nothing is on the books specifically pertaining to electric communications for what you are seeking - apply the standard used for non-electronic communications - in this cast postal mail - witch is never considered public opened or not unless either the sender or receiver makes it that way - anything else is plain wrong. In fact all the electronic communication laws I feel NEVER were needed because all you need to do is look at how you would apply the same act if no electronic device were involved (example Online "bulling" would be exactly the same as doing it physically in a crowd. And even to say poster or server responsible, that's cut and dry too - if you were to use a land line telephone to constantly ring the polices for therefore denying them phone service, is the phone company responsible? - OF COURSE NOT the individual that did it is - same should apply electronically (and BTW I am sure that in the phone example they would not require or even request the offenders phone be disconnected therefore don't bother with user accounts either)
    Either way electronics is really just the newest thing, in general I believe there NEEDS to be a lot more in place to guarantee privacy in just about every situation.

     

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