Court Rules Police Need Warrant To Access Email

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."

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.