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09-12-12, 08:00 PM
http://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/6523513689_baeec3c53c_b-640x426.jpg If Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is able to pass his amendement, e-mail and other electronic communication will have stronger privacy protection.
Eric Constantineau (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericconstantineau/6523513689/in/set-72157625502022549)


Right now, if the cops want to read my e-mail, it‚??s pretty trivial for them to do so. All they have to do is ask my online e-mail provider. But a new bill set to be introduced (http://www.aclu.org/blog/technology-and-liberty-national-security/email-privacy-faces-key-test-next-week) Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee by its chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (http://www.leahy.senate.gov/) (D-VT), seems to stand the best chance of finally changing that situation and giving e-mail stored on remote servers the same privacy protections as e-mail stored on one's home computer.

When Congress passed the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (http://ilt.eff.org/index.php/Privacy:_Stored_Communications_Act)¬*(ECPA), a time when massive online storage of e-mail was essentially unimaginable, it was presumed that if you hadn‚??t actually bothered to download your e-mail, it could be considered "abandoned" after 180 days. By that logic, law enforcement would not need a warrant to go to the e-mail provider or ISP to get the messages that are older than 180 days; police only need to show that they have "reasonable grounds to believe" the information gathered would be useful in an investigation. Many Americans (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/10/op-ed-the-shocking-strangeness-of-our-25-year-old-digital-privacy-law/) and legal scholars (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/30000-secret-surveillance-orders-approved-each-year-judge-estimates/) have found this standard, in today‚??s world, problematic (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/07/millions-of-americans-now-fall-within-governments-digital-dragnet/).

Leahy, who was one of ECPA‚??s original authors, proposed (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/05/senate-bill-would-require-warrant-for-e-mail-cloud-searches/) similar changes in May 2011, but that was never even brought to a vote in the committee. The new version, which keeps the most important element of the 2011 proposal, will be incorporated into a larger bill aimed at revising the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Privacy_Protection_Act)¬*(VPPA).

Read 16 remaining paragraphs (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/09/cops-might-finally-need-a-warrant-to-read-your-gmail/) | Comments (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/09/cops-might-finally-need-a-warrant-to-read-your-gmail/?comments=1#comments-bar)



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