The IRS Is Probably Reading Your Email Right Now

04.12.13 5 years ago 7 Comments

Every buck you take, every deduction you make they’ll be watching you.

It’s tax time, the one time of year we think about the IRS. Amid all the jokes about how invasive and pernicious and loathed they are, you might have seen something about their engaging in wholesale spying on the American people and assumed it was a joke from the Borowitz Report or something. But it’s not. They’re actually doing that. Probably right now, in fact.

Specifically, the ALCU managed to pry a few documents free of its tight-fingered grasp and discovered that the IRS’ approach to privacy is pretty much “Whateva, I do what I want!”:

The documents the ACLU obtained make clear… it was the policy of the IRS to read people’s email without getting a warrant. Not only that, but the IRS believed that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to email at all. … in 2010, a presentation by the IRS Office of Chief Counsel asserts that the “4th Amendment Does Not Protect Emails Stored on Server” and there is “No Privacy Expectation” in those emails.

Making this particularly troubling is, as the ACLU notes, the IRS kept up this opinion even when the courts began ruling that, yes, you need a warrant.

If you’re wondering why this is, the Internal Revenue Service is not just a bunch of accountants: They’re a law enforcement organization. Yes, with guns and everything, guns they happen to be ill-trained to use.

So if you’re joking about tax fraud over email, don’t be surprised if you get a particularly thorough audit this year.

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