Circuit Court recognizes Fourth Amendment applies to email
The excellent Bruce Schneir (Cryptonomicon fans, you know who I'm talking about):
For the first time, e-mail has been granted the same constitutional protections as telephone calls and personal papers: the police need a warrant to get at it. Now it's only a circuit court decision -- the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio -- it's pretty narrowly defined based on the attributes of the e-mail system, and it has a good chance of being overturned by the Supreme Court...but it's still great news.
The way to think of the warrant system is as a security device. The police still have the ability to get access to e-mail in order to investigate a crime. But in order to prevent abuse, they have to convince a neutral third party -- a judge -- that accessing someone's e-mail is necessary to investigate that crime. That judge, at least in theory, protects our interests.
Clearly e-mail deserves the same protection as our other personal papers, but -- like phone calls -- it might take the courts decades to figure that out. But we'll get there eventually.
Indeed. Really, this should be a no-brainer, even for the Bush Court. For the Republicans among us, I'll supply the actual text of the Constitution:
he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
When the Constitution was written, they didn't have computers. (Right, Tony?) Today, we do have computers, and we have digital, electronic papers. Like email. And like everything else the NSA is probably sucking out of my bitstream, even as I type.