Online Life May Soon Be Federal Fair Game
November 22, 2012 by Sam Rolley
A bill proposed in the Senate that will be voted on next week was originally aimed at increasing Americans’ email privacy, but it was quietly rewritten by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy to give the Feds warrantless full access to your inbox.
According to CNET, the bill would now give 22 government agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — unfettered access to Americans’ email inboxes, Google files, Facebook and Twitter with only a subpoena from a judge.
Until law enforcement officials complained, Leahy’s originally said his bill “provides enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by… requiring that the government obtain a search warrant.” He reworked the bill at behest of the National District Attorneys’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association, both of which objected to the warrant requirement.
CNET points out some of the bill’s most privacy-damning highlights:
- It grants warrantless access to Americans’ electronic correspondence to more than 22 Federal agencies. Only a subpoena is required, not a search warrant signed by a judge based on probable cause.
- It permits State and local law enforcement to warrantlessly access Americans’ correspondence stored on systems not offered “to the public,” including university networks.
- It authorizes any law enforcement agency to access accounts without a warrant — or subsequent court review — if they claim “emergency” situations exist.
- The bill says providers “shall notify” law enforcement in advance of any plans to tell their customers that they’ve been the target of a warrant, order or subpoena.
- It delays notification of customers whose accounts have been accessed from three days to “10 business days.” This notification can be postponed by up to 360 days.