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IRS Can Read Your Email Without Warrant

Soulskill posted 1 year,9 days | from the you-can-trust-us dept.

Communications 332

kodiaktau writes "The ACLU has issued a FOIA request to determine whether the IRS gets warrants before reading taxpayers' email. The request is based on the antiquated Electronic Communication Protection Act — federal agencies can and do request and read email that is over 180 days old. The IRS response can be found at the ACLU's website. The IRS asserts that it can and will continue to make warrantless requests to ISPs to track down tax evasion. Quoting: 'The documents the ACLU obtained make clear that, before Warshak, 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. A 2009 "Search Warrant Handbook" from the IRS Criminal Tax Division’s Office of Chief Counsel baldly asserts that "the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications." Again 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.'"

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332 comments

Okay, so, just to be clear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415139)

IRS good, but Russians, Chinese, Iranians bad, yes?

Live in fear only of half the world, but the IRS, we should be comfortable with THEM making our lives miserable, got it!

Re:Okay, so, just to be clear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415201)

They're all jerks, but the IRS isn't going to nuke us. And in theory, we could potentially, in theory, actually force the IRS to act human. Maybe.

Of course, I certainly wouldn't object if someone did a little Regime Change on them.

Residence? (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415293)

Relocate.

Citizenship?
Renounce.

Bug out now, Mr. and Mrs. America. Before they lock the gate.

Or? You didn't think all that TSA and "no fly list" was to keep people out, did you?

Re:Residence? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415457)

You didn't think all that TSA and "no fly list" was to keep people out, did you?

You don't think much. That is obvious.

Anyone who is serious about leaving and thinks there is the slightest
chance that they are going to be detained will not use public transportation
of any kind, particularly the airlines where all the passengers are known ahead
of time.

People made it out of East Germany during the Cold War, and leaving the US with its
huge borders is trivially easy in comparison.

Honestly, the idiocy of people like you makes me certain that the right to procreate
must be governed by the government, and the sooner the better.

Advice from you, troll? No thanks. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43415519)

Especially after you trolled us 100's of times last month http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3581857&cid=43276741 [slashdot.org] in March 2013, but you forgot to submit that one as anonymous coward like you did all the others idiot, and instead you used your registered username here. You got played: You played yourself, moron.

Re:Advice from you, troll? No thanks. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43415691)

He should be banned and his account deleted. How undeserving of a 3 digit UID

Yea because this happens all the time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415149)

More fear mongering... The IRS gonna read yo' mail!!!

Re:Yea because this happens all the time (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415239)

The IRS gonna read yo' mail!!!

Only after they get in line behind the FBI, NSA, DHS, any bored state cop, any bored local cop, any corporation that feels like it, your ISP, etc.

But dare to be a private non-corporation-affiliated citizen and we'll thrown your ass in jail forever for even accessing information public information [wikipedia.org], you terrorist motherfucker!!

Re:Yea because this happens all the time (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415465)

FBI, NSA, DHS, any bored state cop

I don't worry much about law enforcement or intelligence services. Outfits like the IRS or the EPA [goo.gl] are a much bigger threat to my life.

PAY YOUR TAXES !! CRIMS BEWARE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415155)

We look !! We will find !! We will get YOU !!

If you're not doing anything wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415157)

obviously you have nothing to hide...

Re:If you're not doing anything wrong... (4, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415551)

Factually, *EVERYBODY* has something to hide... not because they are necessarily doing anything wrong, but because some things are simply private.

To anyone who would say that they agree with such a notion, consider asking them why ordinary people wear clothes daily. Clothes, after all, cover up one's body, and therefore hide it from view. If the only reason to hide something is because something is wrong, is someone who is wearing clothes necessarily saying that there is something necessarily wrong with their body?

Unless the person you are talking to is a nudist who also happens to firmly believes that other people should openly practice nudity as well (sort of like an evangelical nudist, I guess), or else thinks for some reason that everybody *does* have something wrong with their body, they should realize the inherent flaw in their previously held assumption once this is pointed out to them.

Turnabout! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415165)

Does that mean we can read their email?

Re:Turnabout! (1)

tnk1 (899206) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415257)

Yes, actually. Especially if you can get a FOIA request written in such a way as to include them. Not saying it is easy, but it could be done.

Assuming they don't simply delete them by default at 180 days. I know that many companies have an archival policy that requires you delete all emails older than 180 days, and they do so automatically on your inbox if you leave your mail in there. That wouldn't stop you from archiving your mail, of course, in some other place/folder.

Re:Turnabout! (1)

Applekid (993327) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415699)

Yes, actually. Especially if you can get a FOIA request written in such a way as to include them. Not saying it is easy, but it could be done.

Maybe they might not return a big black box on a sheet of paper with the page number being the only thing that isn't redacted.

No expectation (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415167)

I certainly expect my email to be private. Okay, I expect it SHOULD be private. But the bottom line is if you are storing your data on other people's equipment, you have no guarantee of anything.

Re:No expectation (1)

sheehaje (240093) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415281)

How does anyone expect email to be private? I still scratch my head at how many times emails have been used for indictments, yet people feel it is a reasonable secure mechanism - and this is internal email....

Use encryption for sensitive data. We have a secure email system. It's reasonably protected. Sending plain email to the wild isn't.

The simple of it - if you are putting stuff in unsecured email that can be used against you for tax evasion - you're doing it wrong.

Re:No expectation (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415321)

I agree. The difference is in the meaning of "expect". The IRS is using it in a legal sense, and they are wrong here. From a practical sense, one should not expect email to be confidential. From a legal aspect we should have that expectation.

Re:No expectation (1)

geekoid (135745) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415563)

Are they? I haven't heard a good argument on why anyone should expect an email to be private. It's read and scanned by countless systems just to get it to its destination.

Hint:postcards aren't private either.

Re:No expectation (1)

Zcar (756484) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415635)

Except in the case when your email is stored on a third party's server. There's quite a bit of case law that you don't have a legal expectation of privacy with regards to information revealed to a third party, e.g. emails stored on a web mail provider's server.

From the EFF (https://ssd.eff.org/your-computer/govt/privacy):
"...some Supreme Court cases have held that you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in information you have "knowingly exposed" to a third party — for example, bank records or records of telephone numbers you have dialed — even if you intended for that third party to keep the information secret. In other words, by engaging in transactions with your bank or communicating phone numbers to your phone company for the purpose of connecting a call, you’ve "assumed the risk" that they will share that information with the government."

It's certainly a reasonable interpretation that you knowingly expose the contents of you email to your provider and so it's not protected by the 4th amendment. Even if you encrypt it, the envelope (from/to addresses, etc.) wouldn't be protected.

Re:No expectation (3, Informative)

Sarten-X (1102295) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415645)

The IRS is using it in a legal sense, and they are wrong here. From a practical sense, one should not expect email to be confidential. From a legal aspect we should have that expectation.

I am not a lawyer, but this guy is [tumblr.com], and he illustrates well how email is not legally private.

Re:No expectation (1)

jedidiah (1196) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415359)

The fact that something can be accessed with a court order does not make it public. Your personal papers are free from search and seizure. The fact that it's easy enough for a burglar to steal doesn't alter their private nature or your rights.

Re:No expectation (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415525)

Your personal papers are free from search and seizure.

Except they've construed 'papers' so narrowly that unless it's actual paper in a file cabinet, it's fair game.

Your phone, computer, email, and everything else is somehow excluded from this.

Re:No expectation (1)

geekoid (135745) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415579)

no, not at all.

If you had a postcard, and it was passed hand to hand from person to person, each person reading it to pass it on, you would have no expectation of privacy.
Not until you put it into an envelope.

With electronic communication that envelope is called encryption.

Re:No expectation (1)

Thruen (753567) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415653)

Part of me does agree that you should encrypt sensitive data. On the other hand, if anybody else broke into and read your email, you'd never say it was your own fault for not encrypting it, nor would anyone else. Encryption can be a pain, and if you're emailing back and forth with someone who isn't computer savvy, there's a good chance they won't be able to figure it out anyway. Privacy shouldn't be an opt-in situation, you don't default to not having any because you don't go out of your way to keep it. We have laws that state you can't record a conversation that happens in public without their permission, I can't think of a time where you would have less of an expectation of privacy than a conversation in a public place, but even that isn't legal to record (State by state, check yours!) without permission.

So wrong. (3, Insightful)

Thruen (753567) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415473)

Have you ever rented a home? By your logic, you have no expectation of privacy in a rented property or hotel room. You might be interested to know that it's already well established that (outside of television) your landlord can't even consent to a police search of your property, unless they meet the normal requirements for such consent such as if they also live there. Your email being stored on a server is like that, you're renting the space from the server owner, according to the terms they set forth when you signed up for the account. Unless those terms say they can go through your email or grant permission for others to go through your email, this is still illegal. I'll admit, laws regarding the physical world and the internet don't line up 1:1, but suggesting that there should be no privacy at all on the internet because of the way the internet works is a bit nuts.

Re:So wrong. (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415537)

I think the two terms are being confused, and we are actually agreeing on our positions.

I agree there is a legal expectation of privacy.
I know that there is not practical expectation of privacy. That is why you should encrypt email if you care about privacy.

Re:No expectation (1)

tnk1 (899206) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415489)

I think here the IRS is making a poor argument. Yes, while your mail is in other hands, you can't expect it to be absolutely private. On the other hand, your snail mail, or your phone conversations also go over other people's equipment/hands too. What matters is not the reality of whether it *can* be intercepted, because the answer with communications is almost always "yes". What matters is if we make sure that we define a domain of expected privacy and hold to it.

It is clear to me that email, being person to person, or person to select group, is no less (or more) private than a letter passed through the mails. What is missing is a legal protection for that. The government wants to pretend it is different while there is no good decision or law on the case.

Re:No expectation (1)

sycodon (149926) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415569)

So my regular (snail) mail is kept in U.S. Post Office bins, trucks, planes, etc. during its transit to destination. Because it's "stored" on/in other people's equipment, it's fair game?

Re:No expectation (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415701)

But the bottom line is if you are storing your data on other people's equipment, you have no guarantee of anything.

You have whatever guarantee the law and/or lawful contract provides. If you keep your money in a bank account (not a deposit box) then you are trusting the bank's guarantee they will not tamper with your balance. In most countries, that's a perfectly reasonable thing to expect.

You are not going to get very far in life without trusting your data to someone else's server. For instance, you can't file taxes...

In other news... (2)

crypTeX (643412) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415169)

The IRS has a secret legal opinion that they CAN use lethal drone operations on a citizen noncombatant living in the United States.

Re:In other news... (1)

tnk1 (899206) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415649)

The IRS? Not a chance. Killing their targets would be too easy. What the government doesn't tell you is that the real bad terrorists are forced to sit through an audit. Twice.

But govt email is classified (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415177)

We don't have reasonable expectation of privacy to our electronic communications, but apparently the govt does. On top of that we pay for it.

Re:But govt email is classified (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415429)

This is interesting actually
I should template all my email with

CLASSIFICATION DETERMINATION PENDING
PROTECT AS SECRET//SI/TK//NOFORN//X1

I wonder if it would be legal for me to read my own mail? Or would it just be illegal for most government agencies to read it?

Almost worth tagging everything with that just to see what automated systems it gums up ;)

Re:But govt email is classified (3, Funny)

BlueStrat (756137) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415527)

We don't have reasonable expectation of privacy to our electronic communications, but apparently the govt does. On top of that we pay for it.

Government animals are more equal than others. Questioning Big Brother is double-plus ungood. You are on the list. Say 'hello' to Winston for us when you join him..

Strat

But Do People Really Expect Privacy? (4, Interesting)

dcollins (135727) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415181)

With this kind of "No Expectation of Privacy" thing that comes up (re: emails, phones messages, etc.) -- Hypothetically, what if someone did a scientific survey of U.S. residents and asked: "Do you expect that your stored email messages are private from the government? Do expect that the text messages stored in your phone are private from the government?". Then would there be any possibility that the results of such a survey would be usable in a future court case to knock down such foolishness?

Re:But Do People Really Expect Privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415265)

That's the wrong legal argument.
It's not 'by the government' - the government in this matter has no especial place as a violator of privacy.

Re:But Do People Really Expect Privacy? (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415507)

The "expectation of privacy" argument is bogus anyway. Here's how it works:

1. Government violates citizens' privacy in {airport, government building, email, whatever}

2. Citizens expect government to violate privacy elsewhere based on pattern of past abuse

3. Government justifies next abuse of privacy based on 2.

If I wanted to prove by mathematical induction [wikipedia.org] that there is no such thing as privacy, this is how I would do it. What part of:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated

is so hard for the courts to understand? It seems the only wiggle room is what's "unreasonable," and I thought once upon a time that meant "without a warrant."

Re:But Do People Really Expect Privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43415671)

because the authors of the constitution failed to enumerate "and data on remote servers with a private account".

the 10th amendment has been dead for awhile now.

Re:But Do People Really Expect Privacy? (1)

b4upoo (166390) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415619)

The entire legal issue of privacy is schizophrenic. Government agencies can now decode almost all encrypted material with ease. So how can they claim no expectation of privacy of emails? After all, some email is encrypted. Now picture a hacker breaking into the servers of a large corporation and simply looking around. What is the difference between a hacker viewing a corporations emails on their servers and a government agency viewing your email on Yahoo's servers? In essence we have lost the idea of the sovereignty of the individual being as vital as the sovereignty of the state or the corporation. So we have moved from a system based upon equality,law and natural and legal rights to a system that compels the subservience of the individual even when no wrong doing by that individual is suspected. In other words some people cheat on taxes and therefore we must have the right to examine all people. Yet we pass laws that give some people entirely different rules by which taxes can be applied. We even allow entirely different systems of accounting.
                    This is exactly why many people fear more gun laws. Look what has gone on with the income taxes. First income taxes were declared to be temporary to overcome and emergency shortage of funds. Then they became permanent. Then they became more and more oppressive. And now they want not only the right to audit and insist upon record keeping but also demand covert searches of emails.
                        Meanwhile an ignorant public relies on the notion that laws can fix things. Only laws the we can afford to truly enforce combined with real rehabilitation for offenders has any chance of working at all. As it stands already we don't enforce even 1% of our current laws. Yet we support an expensive congress whose only real power is to pass more laws. More gun control laws will do no good what-so-ever. We just had a lunatic run into a college in Texas and use a box cutter or some sort of razor knife to slash up 14 students. Passing gun laws is about as silly as passing laws against the public owning a box cutter or steak knife.

Re:But Do People Really Expect Privacy? (1)

tnk1 (899206) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415709)

They do appear to be swayed into making their decision based on what is popular at the time, so polling like this could fuel a different judgement eventually as attitudes shift.

Now, should it work that way? Probably not. The courts are at most, to interpret and clarify the law, and that interpretation probably should be consistent no matter what the time period. Otherwise, they are effectively legislating. Having legislative power bleed out into the executive and judicial branches does tend to blur separation of powers.

It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (3, Informative)

preflex (1840068) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415189)

Really, if you're not encrypting your email, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. If your communications are in plaintext, being passed around from server to server in plaintext, it would be absolutely stupid to expect that would be in any way private. It's about as private as a postcard: no envelope, all information plainly visible to anyone that handles it..

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (1)

iggymanz (596061) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415289)

oh? if you're not encrypting your landline call you have no reasonable expectation of privacy? how about a snail-mail letter? e-mail does have an "envelope" to protect it, it takes either the equivalent of "wiretapping" for the government to get it in transit, or username/password to pick it up as regular user. however weak we know those protections are as geeks, the government should be held to warrant whenever it tries to stick its nose in a citizen's business.

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415329)

You are correct on the landline.
If you expect that to be private you are very naive. All phone lines should be assumed to be tapped at all times.

Regular mail is likely safe, but not very trustworthy. International mail is not safe and very likely to be opened.

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (1)

emt377 (610337) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415441)

It's not illegal for a service provider to read email they've stored for you. The only thing preventing them is internal policy - a google employee found reading email would likely be fired. But there's no criminal act there. By comparison, a postal worker who opens letters and reads them will go to prison. A telco worker who taps your phone likewise. Email isn't considered more private then you make it, so doesn't have legal protections.

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43415625)

Google has an entire department set up for their employees to read your emails, warrant free, and give them to whoever pays.

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (3, Informative)

Predius (560344) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415675)

Clarification - In the US a service provider can view customer content on or transiting their equipment IF IT'S REQUIRED FOR NETWORK OPERATIONS. IE if there is a mail delivery problem an ISP IT monkey would be ok trolling through mailbox files looking at the smtp headers. Same ISP IT monkey would NOT be legally in the clear if he decided on a random Tuesday to read customer Bob's email for fun. If he went further and acted on the contents of Bob's email he'd really be setting himself up for a legal hurting.

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (1)

Amouth (879122) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415683)

You know i wonder if you could argue another angle, the "and effects". Every e-mail I write is my own work, which has it's own copyright. the Media industry has pushed extremely hard for more than a decade to have digital copies of copyrighted works be treated as if they were physical goods. under that logic, them copying/reading my e-mails is equivalent to them stealing my personal copyrighted works.

Just a random thought to throw out there.

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415311)

more like, if it's plain text you expect that someone could intentionally read your email if they so choose, thereby invading your privacy. maybe it's trivial for them to do so, but the expectation is that it's somewhat private. maybe similar to mailing a letter in a transparent (or semi-transparent) envelope. maybe the contents are trivally accessable if one wants to peek in, and using such an envelope is perhaps naive with regard to what others might do, but still.. it's expected to be private, to a degree.

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415503)

The thing about email, is there's not even any expectation of an expected routing path -- and anything leaving your jurisdiction is fair game as far as interception goes.

As a result, an email going from you to someone else in your local state-based company may go through some router that's not even physically in your country -- and your country's government has no restrictions against inspecting private correspondence upon (re)entry to your country. Not to mention wherever it went in the meantime.

Since you can't guarantee where an email actually goes, you can't logically (or legally) expect privacy.

That doesn't even get to the minefield of storing your sent/received email "in the cloud"....

Re:It's sucks, but they're sorta' right. (2)

darkfeline (1890882) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415549)

No, not really. If I leave my door open, then very likely I'll be robbed. But does that make the robber's actions legal? No. Just because your email is plaintext and "asking to be read" doesn't make it okay for anyone, let alone the government, to read it at leisure.

Yes, postcards aren't very "private", but there's a certain expectation of privacy, that everyone in the mail service will refrain from reading it as much as possible, and won't gossip, hand it to other people, share private info, etc. Again, chances are, someone is going to do just that eventually, as many people are assholes, but that doesn't justify it. Especially the government has no excuse for doing so.

IRS needs to go (5, Insightful)

emho24 (2531820) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415191)

The US tax code needs a massive overhaul and simplification, and the IRS simply needs to be dismantled.

Maybe I should send that as an email so the IRS will read it.

Re:IRS needs to go (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415263)

The entrenched tax preparer industry would never allow that. They need complicated regulations to exist. If we simply made all income tax X% above Y dollars and Z% above W dollars, then made business taxes X% on Y profit they would be out of jobs. There are likely billions of dollars in the tax preparation, avoidance and evasion industries. From the guy at the HR block to the lawyers helping the 1% setup trusts in the Caymans there are simply too many folks in those jobs to allow simplifying the tax code.

Re:IRS needs to go (1)

geekoid (135745) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415643)

"The entrenched tax preparer industry would never allow that."
HAHAHahhaha.

They very people you seem to think would benefit from a complex tax code actually benefit from simpler tax code.

Re:IRS needs to go (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415575)

Or another solution is if the IRS doesn't win a case, that citizen doesn't have to pay any taxes for the period of time that they were in jeopardy of.

fine line (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415205)

Where does this stop? If the IRS can search your mail, why not the other agencies. Maybe the forestry department thinks you have printed the document on paper which was from an endangered pine tree.
I guess if you had encrypted that email, you would also be expected to provided a decryption key because of some other law about citizens having access to encryption technology. Shit, I bet even rot13 is considered an encryption technology.
I heard about a story about some guy who was growing pot inside his house and out of view. Apparently, if a cop can smell the pot, he has "probable cause" to search the premises. The case went to the Supreme Court because the cops brought a drug sniffing dog, which indicated that there was pot inside, and that was "probable cause". This case seems to have lost, but just like "The Miranda Rights", which were quickly regressed within 2 years of that ruling.

Re:fine line (2)

sconeu (64226) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415497)

Shit, I bet even rot13 is considered an encryption technology.

Yes, it is. Ask Dmitri Sklyarov [wikipedia.org].

IIRC, Adobe used ROT13 and claimed it as an "Effective Access Control" method under the DMCA.

Email is Plaintext (2)

rmandevi (2168940) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415231)

By default, email is plaintext. It isn't sent in an envelope, it's more of an electronic postcard. You aren't guaranteed a particular routing, so email may pass through any number of ISPs of varying nationality, legality, and morals. You want privacy? Use encryption.

In snailmail, enveloped mail has an expectation of privacy, postcards less so (if at all). Email is not snailmail. All it takes is a packet sniffer in the right place to read your mail, not even much of a cracking package. So there is no de facto privacy. The only expectation of privacy comes from people who keep expecting email to behave like snailmail, and it's a false expectation.

The case that the fourth amendment applies to unencrypted data sent across arbitrary connections is weak. I'm no fan of the IRS, and they are often above the law and a law unto themselves, but I don't think that applies here.

Re:Email is Plaintext (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415487)

Wait... wait... wait...

Email ISN"T private because if you have the "gear" (software/hardware, skills to use it/access to the place to use it/them) it's easy to see. But snail mail, in an envelope, written in a common language IS private... And all it takes is a letter opener?

Why is this thinking bizarre to me?

Re:Email is Plaintext (1)

GigsVT (208848) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415553)

Email isn't private because it can be relayed through any server on the Internet, in plain text.

Complicated email routing these days isn't as common as it used to be (though, with third party spam services, it's getting a little more complicated once again), but it used to be common for a server operator to handle a large volume of email that wasn't intended for them as the final destination.

The protocol is inherently insecure by design, and there should be no expectation of privacy. Any mail server admin on the Internet could read your email in theory.

why do we need a password? (2)

MacColossus (932054) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415255)

If I didn't have an expectation of privacy, I wouldn't password protect it.

Re:why do we need a password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415405)

Quite the reverse, you need a password to access the email in your account, that password is the expectation of privacy, that is the envelope equivalent of physical mail.

Re:why do we need a password? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415411)

To protect it from other users, not the server admin nor police. Also to prevent others from pretending to be you, again not the server admins as that would be trivial.

Helpful for profiling (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415271)

This citizen received 300 emails from ebay and 150 emails from Bodog and Betonsports.eu.
Elivated likelihood of major tax evasion.

Time for an encrypted email service.

I think they just invented... (3, Funny)

MasseKid (1294554) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415275)

a new renewable energy source. All we have to do is put some magnets on our founding father and the amount of energy they exert spinning in their graves over this and things like this would power the whole united states with some to spare.

Re:I think they just invented... (1)

Entropius (188861) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415379)

I'm racing you on that one -- I want to cut a hole at the top of the Capitol Rotunda and replace it with a turbine, powered off of the hot air coming out of the folks inside.

Re:I think they just invented... (3, Funny)

wierd_w (1375923) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415515)

Sadly, the decadent lifestyles often enjoyed by said windbags consumes a substantial quantity of energy, so the overall net production rate of politically powered enegy genration is going to be remarkably poor.

Supernatural patriarch electrodynamos, however, are clearly over unity.

Re:I think they just invented... (1)

geekoid (135745) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415693)

You should probably read their papers and letters before making such a statement.
You might be surprised at how little they would be turning over.

No expectation of privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415299)

Well, the IRS has no reasonable expectation of my paying taxes either.

Why no CEO convictions then? (5, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415313)

If the IRS can read email without a warrant, then it should be EASY to convict nearly every overpaid CEO in the USA who hides their money via creative accounting and tax dodges. Why have there been no convictions then for the 2008 Economic Crash where the fatcat bankers stole trillions and then got free billions to cover their losses? Surely that money can be traced and found and certain wall street types convicted if the IRS is reading *their* emails.

Oh, but they aren't -- because those people own the government. Because those people are "too big to fail". Because those people have friends in high places and lots of lawyers to defend them. They aren't easy targets, even though they are big targets.

No no, prosecutors want easy convictions from people with no means to defend themselves, using the same tactics as high school bullies -- pick on the weak.

The IRS reading your mail? Pfft. It's to keep the proles in line. The elite have their own laws and their own justice that flows from power. The rest of us just try to survive under the heel of their boot.

Re:Why no CEO convictions then? (1)

GigsVT (208848) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415581)

Why would they need to trace the money? The fed was the one writing the checks to people and foreign governments to buy the worthless junk MBS. They know where it went.

TLS and private mail server (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415317)

So, when you have TLS and a private mailserver, how does this work exactly? Who are they tapping?

Re:TLS and private mail server (1)

GigsVT (208848) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415595)

If you don't host the server yourself they could always go to your hosting provider, but I assume this is more about gmail/comcast/etc.

Is it that hard to get a warrant? (1)

RobXiii (685386) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415331)

I don't get all these government arguments for warrantless this or warrantless that. Shouldn't we err on the side of the constitution? Is it that hard to get a warrant??!

Re:Is it that hard to get a warrant? (3, Informative)

wierd_w (1375923) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415623)

Warrants, as defined in the constitution, must cite specific papers, and specific places. You can't get a constitutionally aboveboard warrant to go "fishing".

Since the government is looking for unidentified persons who may be infringing, so that can then identify and prosecute, they really can't get a warrant.

This is intentional. The limitations on how warrants work were *intended* to frustrate magistrates and government agents.

Making it "easier" for them is how you lose your freedoms.

private property rights? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415339)

Of-course this is IRS, they are above the law, they don't have to comply with any laws, their entire operation is completely lawless, not based on any laws [slashdot.org]. They are used to violating your private property rights, that's what income taxes are - a violation of your private property rights. They are used to discriminating against people, that's what graduated ('progressive') income taxes are - discrimination against individuals, the laws are not applied equally. They are used to taking away your freedom [lewrockwell.com] of movement [theatlantic.com].

Saying that your email is not private is not something out of character for IRS.

Just because some third party hosts your emails it doesn't mean they are not your property, there is your NAME on it, the company gave you your space. Is your BANK ACCOUNT your property?

Where do I get privacy? (2)

characterZer0 (138196) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415373)

Do I get privacy if my mail is stored on a mail server in my house that I own? What if it is a colocated server that I own? What if it is a rented server? What if it is a VPS?

Moral of the story (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415439)

Be careful about what you put into writing; if it will be read your bestest friend, it will also be read worstest enemy. Tried and true security strategy used for millennia.

Sarah Palin email hack (4, Insightful)

TerraFrost (611855) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415445)

The Sarah Palin email hacker [wikipedia.org] should have used that line! "Mrs. Palin has no privacy expectation". Might have saved him from his misdemeanor conviction of "unauthorized access to a computer".

Re:Sarah Palin email hack (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43415723)

This is spot on! There is no way government officials by into the "no expectation" of privacy when it comes to their own email accounts...

Then should the government expect privacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,9 days | (#43415447)

Shouldn't the government be transparent and release emails over 180 days old? Especially non-critical stuff: Interior department, Education, Housing, etc.

"Trust us." (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,9 days | (#43415477)

> "A 2009 "Search Warrant Handbook" from the IRS Criminal Tax Division’s Office of Chief Counsel"

Yes, criminal, in the same way England was being criminal, abusing power to search.

Exactly the same. Anyone in government reading this? You are behaving in exactly the same way as the evil government we shucked off. Yes, you, you ass. You.

Warrants (1)

onyxruby (118189) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415539)

Is it really that unreasonable to get a warrant before doing the following activities?

Reading your email?
Tracking your car?
Tracking your phone calls?
Tracking your cell phone?
Tracking your every movement?
Entering your private home?
Entering your private car?

In today's society it is highly difficult to function without these capabilities, yet we are expected to check our constitutional rights out the door when we want to operate as normal members of society. Expecting nothing more than asking a judge to review if law enforcement has a reasonable reason to invade your privacy for legal purposes - as the constitution demands - should not even be a debate.

I respect people's privacy when their mail isn't (1)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415547)

addressed to me. Most people respect that in return. Does that count as a reasonable expectation of privacy? Could we apply the same standard to e-mail?

Antiquated Legal Standard (3, Informative)

necro81 (917438) | 1 year,8 days | (#43415557)

The 180-day limit is based on an antiquated legal standard, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act [wikipedia.org], which was signed into law in 1986 - more than 25 years ago. At the time, email was still in its infancy, and "cloud"-based email providers like Yahoo, GMail, etc. simply didn't exist.

Efforts are underway [google.com] to update the act so that, among other things, law enforcement will need to obtain a warrant anytime they want to access email. But those updates aren't law yet, so the old statute still applies.

Is a password considered a lock? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,8 days | (#43415573)

If I put a lock on my house, car, toolshed, etc... I expect that the contents are to be considered private.
If I put a password (a modern day lock) then I consider the material behind the password to be considered private.

It's also sort of like a phone conversation. I call someone and the conversation is considered to be between the caller and callee. What the callee does with the conversation is up for debate BUT only that call can be leaked. That callee can't access all my other conversations... thus the contents of calls should be considered private save for the other party.

So when did email become public?

In this day and age our Government needs ensure our rights are protected, not continue to erode them...

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