Email privacy bill doesn't protect privacy

  • 22 May 2015
  • NormanL
Mike Lee

Is the content of your emails private? It's not a question regarding the strength of your email account's password. Instead, we're referring to a bill moving through congress">Congress that would update the nation's email privacy laws. Right now, critics charge the protections are flimsy and must be strengthened. Taking the cue, some lawmakers, including Utah's Mike Lee, introduced a bill that would require the government to get a warrant from a judge before it goes fishing through your inbox.

But the bill -- S. 356 -- does address some of the concerns. But it may also contain a major flaw:

Section 3 of the actual text of the bill, however, allows for judgeless administrative subpoenas to obtain those emails, which are private property even if lacking some “privacy” because they are shared by private parties, but not the government.

So, the government really doesn’t need to obtain a warrant from a judge to obtain emails.  Instead, attorneys general and various state bureaucracies, plus the DEA, NSA, EPA, EEOC, SEC, FTC, etc. can issue their own judge-less warrants without oath and affirmation before a neutral judge or magistrate, and without probable cause, yet get our emails.

In other words, the bill would change nothing. That's a big problem.

Senator Lee is one of the few in Congress who does show the proper understanding of, and respect for, the Fourth Amendment. We hope he will recognize the weakness in his bill and corrects it.