[p2p-research] Slashdot | An Inbox Is Not a Glove Compartment

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Mon Nov 2 19:44:03 CET 2009

To follow up a previous note on this developing story of a US legal ruling 
relating to email:
Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes "A federal judge rules 
that government can obtain access to a person's inbox contents without any 
notification to the subscriber. The pros and cons of this are complicated, 
but the decision hinges on the assertion that ISP customers have lowered 
privacy interests in e-mail because they 'expose to the ISP's employees in 
the ordinary course of business the contents of their e-mails.' Fortunately 
for everybody, this is not true — most ISPs do not allow their employees to 
read customer e-mails 'in the ordinary course of business' — but then what 
are the consequences for the rest of the argument?" Read on for the rest of 
Bennett's analysis.
   Federal Judge Michael Mosman has ruled that the government can read your 
e-mails stored with a third-party provider like GMail, without notifying you 
that a search warrant has been executed (PDF) against your account. 
(Actually, the judge ruled that there is no "notice" requirement triggered 
at all, so that in theory, neither GMail nor the subscriber would have to be 
notified — but that seems only of theoretical interest, since in practice 
GMail would have to cooperate in order to execute the warrant, unless the 
government is planning to have ninjas sneak into their server farm at night. 
The substantive impact of the ruling is that e-mails can be read without 
notifying the subscriber.) ...

--Paul Fernhout

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