The Sixth Court of Appeals ruled that police need a search warrant to get ISPs to divulge emails, Tech News Ninjas reported. This is the first case that has dealt with email under the Fourth Amendment that deals with illegal search and seizures.
The Stored Communications Act of 1986 had covered emails but allowed access to email beyond 180 days old under certain circumstances.
"In making its decision, the court recognized how technology and communication had changed: "Since the advent of email, the telephone call and the letter have waned in importance, and an explosion of Internet-based communication has taken place," the 3-1 decision reads. "People are now able to send sensitive and intimate information, instantaneously, to friends, family, and colleagues half a world away. Lovers exchange sweet nothings, and businessmen swap ambitious plans, all with the click of a mouse button."
As a result, the Court of Appeals says that "It follows that email requires strong protection under the Fourth Amendment; otherwise, the Fourth Amendment would prove an ineffective guardian of private communication, an essential purpose it has long been recognized to serve."