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Email Records: You're Going To Need a Warrant for That (Maybe)

Illustration for article titled Email Records: Youre Going To Need a Warrant for That (Maybe)

If the Feds want access to your email and other online data, they're going to have to get a warrant first, thanks to a new bill that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

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Sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, the bill would amend the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and void a particular section that states the government can obtain a person of interest's digital data without probable cause. It would change the current state of things which allow Feds to get ahold of emails without a warrant if the content's been stored on a third-party server for more than 180 days. But the government can still go behind your back and ask your ISP for your data, and it doesn't have to let you know it has your online info for 90 days.

It also includes a provision that would keep people from automatically publishing what they're watching on Netflix to Facebook. Regardless of a few caveats, the bill is, for the most part, an important step in the ongoing battle for our online privacy. The ECPA is the opposite of current and in painful need of updating. But it will probably be edited quite a bit before it even comes to a vote, and it won't make it to the Senate floor until sometime in 2013.

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In the meantime, the important thing is that the discussion about our online privacy is actually happening. [Patrick Leahy via Wired via The Verge]

Image credit: Patrick Leahy

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DISCUSSION

Wow, I am so glad you guys finally came back to work after the Thanksgiving Holidays. This story has been brewing for several weeks now and you finally decided to report on it.

Also, FYI, Senator Leahy originally proposed this bill WITHOUT the requirement for a warrant so while the article seems to make Mr. Leahy a hero in fact he wanted to allow the government to have full access to your private communications without benefit of a legal warrant.

Thanks to people who were paying attention he revised the bill to include the warrant requirement.