In the Law's Eyes, E-mail Isn't Private

If you still have any illusions that your e-mail is protected from the prying eyes of investigators or police, you can drop them now. In a June 29 decision, a federal circuit court ruled that e-mail stored on the servers…

Jul 15, 2004

If you still have any illusions that your e-mail is protected from the prying eyes of investigators or police, you can drop them now. In a June 29 decision, a federal circuit court ruled that e-mail stored on the servers of Internet service providers is not protected by the rules that restrict government wiretaps on telephone lines. Reading stored e-mail is not the same as “intercepting” an electronic communication, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled in the case of USA v. Bradford Councilman – at least not in the sense intended by Congress in the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, which placed limits on phone wiretapping. A dissenting judge, however, wrote that the decision “would undo decades of practice and precedent regarding the scope of the Wiretap Act.”