The Justice Department Is Looking For A Cuddlier Way To Read Your Email Without A Warrant

Senior Contributor
03.19.13

Today, the Department of Justice will trying to argue that it has a right to just kick back and flip through your email whenever it feels like it. Except it won’t. Here’s what’s going on.

The Justice Department is essentially going to give up trying to argue that law enforcement shouldn’t need a warrant to read your email. Victory, right? Not so fast

[Acting Assistant Attorney General Elana] Tyrangiel is also proposing eliminating some of the privacy protections that apply to company records that reveal who is sending or receiving e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and similar messages. Because current law allows law enforcement to “obtain records of calls made to and from a particular phone” without having to go before a judge, the same rule should allow police to obtain e-mail addressing information, she says.

If this “insane metaphor to describe a technological concept” thing sounds familiar, it might be because the Border Patrol was trying to insist going through every file in your laptop was the same thing as searching your luggage.

This would also essentially mean your Twitter DMs and Facebook messages would be an open book, although to be fair those forms of communication don’t really resemble the mail and you’d have to be incredibly stupid to use those to chat about crimes in the first place.

Really, what the Department of Justice is trying to do is get its own proposals out there before somebody decides to write a law for them. And we do need to have a discussion about where privacy lies in the digital age. On the other hand, we would like to see, just once, a government organization not deliberately use a goofy metaphor for a technology. Just once, guys. It would be nice.

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