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Appeals Circuit Ruling: ISPs Can Read E-Mail

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the odd-distinctions dept.

Privacy 527

leviramsey writes "The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (covering Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island) has ruled that e-mail providers are not violating the law by reading users' e-mail without the user's consent. The decision finds that the Wiretap Act does not cover interception of communications where the communications are being stored, not transmitted. Perhaps OSDN should send the defendant, accused in 2001 of reading users emails in order to find out what they were interested in purchasing from Amazon, a T-shirt from ThinkGeek?"

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Two words (5, Insightful)

VinceWuzHere (733075) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575182)

Two words: HOLY SHIT!

More words: This most certainly has to be overturned on a privacy bill of some sort. Imagine the widespread mail-reading that is now determined -at least in the mentioned juridstictions- to be legal. I wonder what ever happened to the privacy laws and how they match up to this new ruling (the ones that say a conversation is deemed to be confidential and cannot be disclosed outside of the circle in which it originated?)

I completely agree with "And he acknowledged that "the line that we draw in this case will have far-reaching effects on personal privacy and security."

Re:Two words (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575247)

Holy SHIT is right..

This is complete Bullshit..

OK so Joe Blow from AOL just saw the email i was writing to a customer and then writes to that same customer and offers them a better deal.

The posibilities for abuse are rediculious

Re:Two words (4, Insightful)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575412)

More words: This most certainly has to be overturned on a privacy bill of some sort.

Why? It seems much smarter to start encrypting your email than to simply trust a private company to not watch what is done with their equipment.

Re:Two words (5, Insightful)

0racle (667029) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575423)

You mean that you can say with a straight face that you thought E-Mail was a private medium to begin with? Its sent plain text, through who knows how many intermediaries, then stored on a system you don't have control over. At any one of those points it could be read, even accidentally.

Isn't it about time... (5, Insightful)

Nea Ciupala (581705) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575188)

... to start using strong crypto for our email? The technology has been available for free for years now, so what's stoping us? Why this inertia?

Re:Isn't it about time... (3, Interesting)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575273)

".. to start using strong crypto for our email? "

Screw that. Use instant messaging. The reason why ISPs can read the mail is because it sits on their servers. Find an IM program that doesn't use a server to store the messages (i.e. I think that rules out ICQ...) and you're set. The only real problem then is packet sniffing.

Re:Isn't it about time... (2, Informative)

Nspace13 (654963) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575316)

and on top of that you can always use AIM Encrypt [aimencrypt.com]

Re:Isn't it about time... (1)

ambrosine10 (747895) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575415)

Hey, if you're smart enough to know to encrypt, make your own certificates with OpenSSL and Perl... WTF are you using someone else's certs for.

Re:Isn't it about time... (1)

Nea Ciupala (581705) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575336)

There reasons for using email and IM are different, and there's no need to sacrifice one or the other. And strong crypto can be applied to IM too in order to solve the sniffing problem, it's as simple as that...

Re:Isn't it about time... (3, Informative)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575358)

There are many problems with using instant messaging - You can't leave a message for a user that's offline (unless the message gets stored on a server, which defeats the purpose). You generally are subjected to a limit on how much text you can transfer in one message. File transfer doesn't work a lot of the time if someone is behind a router or firewall. Companies won't IM you instead of e-mailing you.

The list goes on and on...

Re:Isn't it about time... (2, Informative)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575406)


You can leave a message offline using ICQ, and thats one of the biggest reasons I still use the ICQ network.

Re:Isn't it about time... (3, Informative)

nsandver-work (91781) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575493)

The only real problem then is packet sniffing.

Even that's not an issue for GAIM users, thanks to the GAIM Encryption [sf.net] plugin.

Because email encryption has FAILED (3, Insightful)

Noose For A Neck (610324) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575306)

The technologies for encrypting email that have been offered up, most notably PGP, require too much learning and intervention on the part of the user while offering far too few tangible benefits ("Why encrypt my email? I have nothing to hide!") to make it worth the effort.

I'm speaking here about an average user, rather than the tech-saavy crowd that populates Slashdot.

Re:Because email encryption has FAILED (1)

Nea Ciupala (581705) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575378)

Well, we now have one strong reason I'd say.

Re:Because email encryption has FAILED (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575409)

I'm speaking here about an average user, rather than the tech-saavy crowd that populates Slashdot.

And the people that need to be encrypting their emails wouldn't be leaving them out in the open before this ruling anyway.

Those that were concerned about privacy would have encrypted them or used their own service to deliver messages. I am *sure* ISPs are going to just love grepping through emails to look for whatever it is they are looking for.

I seriously hope that ISPs have something better to do than that.

[tinfoilhat]
If anything, this was funded by the RIAA/MPAA/US Government to find out the subversive terrorists at the expense of those people that don't send important shit in email anyway.
[/tinfoilhat]

Re:Isn't it about time... (5, Insightful)

cutecub (136606) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575346)

Why the inertia?

Confusion
Complexity
Laziness
Cluelessness


For me its always been a tossup between complexity and laziness. None of my friends would know what to do with a GPG public key if it hit them in the head, nor would most of them bother learning how to use it. You got it right with "Inertia". Overcomming this is like pushing a black-hole up-hill.

-Sean

Re:Isn't it about time... (1)

ambrosine10 (747895) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575377)

Heh. You're asking the wrong people. I have PGP and GnuPG installed, and I could have encrypted email convos with anybody... but WHO the hell other than techies use PGP, or even knows what PGP is? You think the average Joe on the 'net even cares about it? "Who cares who reads my mail, I just want to send and recieve stuff"... It'll take some serious privacy violations before people start thinking seriously about encryption.

Re:Isn't it about time... (1)

Nea Ciupala (581705) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575433)

I'm in the exact same situation, but I'd say this ruling is one such serious privacy violation that could start people thinking seriously about encryption...

Re:Isn't it about time... (2, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575513)

He was reading mail sent by Amazon. You expect Amazon to start using PGP for every e-mail query?

No mention is made if he was reading other mail. I use GnuPG w/KMail regularly and I can't think of why I'd encrypt a book request to Amazon.

I only use signatures and encryption on stuff that I think should have it.

-Charles

I'm confused (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575193)

There are people that don't run their own mail servers? Well, I suppose that might change now.

Eh? (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575194)

It has been ruled that ISPs are simply a carrier, but they can read the email?

Re:Eh? (1)

sik0fewl (561285) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575302)

And the USPS can read your snail mail, too!

Re:Eh? (4, Insightful)

bladernr (683269) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575319)

It has been ruled that ISPs are simply a carrier, but they can read the email?

Wow, that got me thinking. ISPs are not held liable for piracy, hacking, etc, because they are a "common carrier." Common carriers have no knowledge of the traffic they carry, they are simply moving things from point A to point B. That limits their liability.

Now, though, the court (in those jurisdictions) has ruled it is legal for ISPs to, at the least, read e-mail. Since it is ruled legal, and they are able, does that confer some responsibility to them?

Thinking this through to conslusion, what are the odds that the ISP defending itself in reading the e-mail, has in fact increased its liability in all things its customer's do and have done to them?

Re:Eh? (4, Insightful)

eaolson (153849) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575485)

Wow, that got me thinking. ISPs are not held liable for piracy, hacking, etc, because they are a "common carrier." Common carriers have no knowledge of the traffic they carry, they are simply moving things from point A to point B. That limits their liability.

There's a minor problem with your argument. ISP's are not common carriers

http://www.cctec.com/maillists/nanog/historical/00 10/msg00012.html [cctec.com]

Re:Eh? (1)

op00to (219949) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575495)

Since it is ruled legal, and they are able, does that confer some responsibility to them?

Ahh! Since we CAN read their email, now we HAVE to read their email (to make sure they are not terrorists/hax0rz/kidtouchers)...

I can think of a few users whose email I would definately not want to read.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575384)

But ISPs run the mail servers. They don't run the P2P servers, or anything else. That's the difference.

Re:Eh? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575510)

Sorry, you appear to be missing a major distinction. In Canada ISPs are simply a carrier; I thought it had already been ruled that in the USA ISPs are now privately funded branches of the FBI.

We don't need any analogies. (3, Insightful)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575196)


We don't need to say that this is like opening postal mail, or that RAM holding the email temporarily is like a modem caching the data. We don't need to compare this to anything to explain it.

It is plainly and utterly stupid and wrong.

Enough said.

good thing... (2, Insightful)

chachob (746500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575200)

google isn't an ISP :D

Re:good thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575308)

The email you send to your friend will pass through any number of different servers (ISPs). Those ISPs along the way can still read it.

The analogy here is poor, but the best I can think of is that unencrypted email is like a postcard.

Re:good thing... (1)

jekewa (751500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575310)

Well, kinda. They are providing a service on the Internet.

Implications for google? (5, Insightful)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575201)

If ISPs are not breaking any laws reading users stored email without consent, then why was there a huge fuss about Google using a parsing engine to do the same?! I would have thought that a parsing engine was more in line with privacy than someone reading your mail!!

I feel a tremendous schizm forming within the ranks of the American Legislature over this, with one side determined to force restrictions upon 'publicised' companies in an effort to make names for themselves, while the other side making rulings like this that will bearly make the main press. Something tells me not everyone is singing off the same hymnsheet.

Something died a little today. That something was common sense.

Re:Implications for google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575256)

This is what happens when government gets too big for its own good.

Re:Implications for google? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575354)

This is what happens when government gets too big for its own good.

For your mouth to God's ears.

Vote Libertarian!

Common sense? (1)

PigeonGB (515576) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575323)

You're a little late for the funeral. It's been dead for some time now. B-)

Re:Implications for google? (1)

dykofone (787059) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575400)

It is fairly amazing that Google gets flack for running a script that picks out keywords, without implying context to those words, and also as the implied agreement as the reason for a free service. Meanwhile, ISP's will have the ability to dig through mail on their own accord or at the demand of others, implying whatever they want. If ISP's in America can be held liable for the actions of their users, will ISP's start screening e-mails as a basis for a termination of service, to save their own ass?

Re:Implications for google? (2, Insightful)

jgs (245596) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575490)

why was there a huge fuss about Google using a parsing engine to do the same?!

AFAIK this is the first case law on the subject, and up until now everyone assumed the courts would rule the other way. In other words, up until today most people assumed that it was a violation of the law for ISPs to read email.

Now that the First Circuit has ruled otherwise, it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Of course, if the ISP's terms of service indicate they won't read your email, you've still got civil law on your side, anyway. For what that's worth.

Godamnit (-1, Troll)

HackHackBoom (198866) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575220)

This is just a completely perfect example of why Lawyers should be burned.

To hell with the SPIRIT of the law. We're lawyers and we need to follow the LETTER of the law. Assholes like this need to be burned from the godamned stake in the middle of the White House lawn.

Re:Godamnit (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575329)

Have you ever heard the expression, "Behind every sleazy lawyer is a sleazy client"?

oh no! (5, Funny)

2057 (600541) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575226)

Oh god now they will know about my massive addiction to penis enlargers! seriously i don't use my isp account for anything important if they wanna know about penis enlarging treatments go fer it.

Wait a minute (4, Interesting)

MoneyT (548795) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575232)

If ISPs can read your emails, that stops them from being a common carrier anymore doesn't it? Which then means that they could be held legaly liable for any damages caused by illegal activity via email couldn't they?

Re:Wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575425)

Why is this insightful? ISPs aren't common carriers anyway.

Re:Wait a minute (1)

Holi (250190) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575502)

Since when are ISP's Common Carriers. Last I heard ISP's fall under the definition of Enhanced Service Provider. If this has changed someone please let me know.

isn't this irrelevant? (3, Insightful)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575238)

Email is plain text. clear text. not encrypted. Now if this covered IPS right to read their users mail if it were encrypted, then that would be something else.

It's clear text though, what do you expect?

encrypt it [gnupg.org]

Re:isn't this irrelevant? (4, Insightful)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575298)

let me append this with the statement, don't put the government in a position to legislate something when we have the ability fix the problem ourselves.

Re:isn't this irrelevant? (1, Redundant)

Iscariot_ (166362) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575341)

The hand-written mail I send is also clear, non-encrypted text. Should the USPS be able to read that too?

I expect that those transporting my messages don't read it. It is a crime to open someone's snail mail, should't we apply the same rule to email? Or *.mail?

Re:isn't this irrelevant? (1, Insightful)

Buzz_Litebeer (539463) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575428)

If it is on a postcard they can.

Which is what Email is. Like a electronic post card.

Now if you use a caesar cypher on your postcard messages, then you can claim you meant to keep it secret

Re:isn't this irrelevant? (1)

ambrosine10 (747895) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575451)

A better analogy is, is there a law that prevents people from reading your postcards? Because plain text email is just as secure, even less so, in fact.

Re:isn't this irrelevant? (1)

finkployd (12902) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575477)

If it is on a postcard, yes. Do you expect them to avert their eyes when they come across a postcard?

Finkployd

Encryption (3, Insightful)

funk_phenomenon (162242) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575258)

I think it may be a good time for people to start looking into ecryption [gnupg.org] .

Re:Encryption (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575421)

This might be a good time for you to look into a spell checker [gnu.org] .

GnuPG :-) (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575259)

http://gnupg.org

Most email clients support it nowadays (thunderbird and Mail.app both have free extensions) and the only reason not to use it is the initial cost of collecting keys for everyone you want to talk to. Well, think again!

Fortunatly... (5, Funny)

Mind Booster Noori (772408) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575264)

Fortunatly...

1) I'm not in USA;
2) I use gpg;
3) I'm wearing that t-shirt.

This is just as wrong as stupid: makes me remember how 2600 lost in court making links to illegal stuff illegal, when, after, others won in the same court prooving linking is just linking, not illegal (good for Google :-))

It's frustrating when we clearly see that the laws are just bendable...

Re:Fortunatly... (1)

JohnFromCanada (789692) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575408)

I just read this and happen to be wearing this t-shirt [jinx.com] .

So the loophole is... (3, Insightful)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575265)

The decision finds that the Wiretap Act does not cover interception of communications where the communications are being stored, not transmitted

So now the loophole is telecomms carriers can store messages, and by storing messages they're allowed to listen to them.

Of course, it's no use just to listen to a message to get info on what a subject is up to, it has to be stored for later use, so simply the fact of listening in to a phone conversation and recording it for later use makes it legal to listen to and store for later use.

bah

Re:So the loophole is... (1)

happyfrogcow (708359) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575404)

So now the loophole is telecomms carriers can store messages, and by storing messages they're allowed to listen to them.

also, an "in" for the government. they just need to be part of the line of transmission and happen to have the data go into some RAM and they can snoop on you without a court order.

though, they can do that with the PATRIOT Act as well I imagine.

Re:So the loophole is... (1)

CristalShandaLear (762536) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575519)

By the same token, I have voicmail with my LEC. Does this mean they can listen to all my voicemail now and it's legal?

It'll never stand (5, Insightful)

Noose For A Neck (610324) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575267)

Hopefully, if the Supreme Court doesn't overturn this decision, then at least people will get outraged enough that they will write to their lawmakers to quickly remedy this problem. It's not just Slashbots that worry about privacy in email, this is a clear enough danger that I'm sure the non-IT public would be shocked if they heard about what was going on.

And to those who think encrypting your email is the answer - it's not. The email sent to you can still be read, and many sites like Amazon, which is mentioned in the article, send automated emails to whatever address you provide them, making your communications easy pickings for unscrupulous ISPs.

Of course, on the other hand, I'm sure some people here won't be surprised, and will in fact welcome such intrusion into their email, as evidenced by the enthusiasm here and elsewhere in geek circles for Google's Gmail service, which at least as intrusive and does the exact same thing with a user's emails (i.e. reads them for the purposes of marketing other products they think the user would be interested in). I'm still not sure what causes this cognitive disconnect in the technical community, but it is both puzzling and worrisome.

Re:It'll never stand (1)

Mind Booster Noori (772408) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575385)

> Hopefully, if the Supreme Court doesn't overturn this decision,
> then at least people will get outraged enough that they will
> write to their lawmakers to quickly remedy this problem. It's
> not just Slashbots that worry about privacy in email, this is a
> clear enough danger that I'm sure the non-IT public would be
> shocked if they heard about what was going on.

Unfortunatly I can't have the same optimistic oppinion as you... People care, but they don't care enough: if there are software patents, if there are stupid laws and stupid turn-arounds to not-so-stupid laws, why would this go into a different path?

We saw this happen countless times... :-(

Re:It'll never stand (1)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575402)

>>Of course, on the other hand, I'm sure some
>>people here won't be surprised, and will in
>>fact welcome such intrusion into their email,
>>as evidenced by the enthusiasm here and
>>elsewhere in geek circles for Google's Gmail

Your point doesn't quite make sense. An Internet provider is providing you a service for a fee and no where has told you that they're going to read your e-mail.

Those signing up for Gmail are well aware of how the system works and what Google is doing, Google has made it as clear as possible what it is doing with your information.

Re:It'll never stand (1)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575407)

...I'm sure some people here won't be surprised, and will in fact welcome such intrusion into their email, as evidenced by the enthusiasm here and elsewhere in geek circles for Google's Gmail service, which at least as intrusive and does the exact same thing with a user's emails.... I'm still not sure what causes this cognitive disconnect in the technical community, but it is both puzzling and worrisome.

I heard there's a pig named Napoleon going around, teaching the whole flock of sheep to chant:

Google goood,
Two legs baaad.

All my future emails (2, Funny)

grunt107 (739510) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575269)

will be using Ray Romano's encryption scheme:

I ehat het su ourtc fo ppealsa!!

It's time to start skimming the gene pool

Excellent (3, Funny)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575274)

And to think I used to read all the cute girls emails at school when I was a temp sysadmin... it was all legal! w00t... I wonder if the extortion I did using the information I gleaned from their emails was equally as legal... oh well, I guess I'll never know... besides, how else is a geek supposed to get action in highschool? :P

cd /var/mail (4, Insightful)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575282)

grep -i -n -A 3 username * > password_list

thanks for that

Let's make lemonade form these lemons (4, Insightful)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575288)

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (covering Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island) has ruled that e-mail providers are not violating the law by reading users' e-mail without the user's consent.

In a way, I suppose, this ruling is a good thing, because it underscores the need for a comprehensive privacy and data retention law.

What's needed is something along the lines of The European Union's privacy law: that is, something that is explicitly mandated, rather then the "penumbras" of privacy that some judges can, and some judges won't, see lurking between the lines of the Ninth Amendment.

We can hope that this defeat in the courts can be -- with our hard work -- turned into a victory in the U.S. Congress.

No problem (3, Funny)

nizo (81281) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575296)

Simply include a picture of the goatse guy or tubgirl in every email and they will be sorry they ever read it.

Re:No problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575429)

Or this disturbing picture [harrylimetv.com] .

When will people learn (2, Informative)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575303)

Email is not mail it's a post card at best. I see peoples mail regularly as part of work as it's going down the wire, it's not illegal as I'm performing maitence and troubleshooting for the companies that own the routers. Same goes for a random sys admin that needs to say fix an email box or generaly run the system. Your service provider has allways been able to do this. The post office can read your mail if they need to what do you think dead letter offices are for? Dont like it encrypt the contents and use anon remailers.

Definition of Storing (1)

manganese4 (726568) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575321)

How long does an email (or for that matter a voice mail) need to remain at 0 momentum before it is considered storage?

Creeeepy (1)

beef curtains (792692) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575328)

In theory, I find this to be extremely uncool. It's akin to SBC employees listening in to your phone call to grandma, or a US Postal Service employee ripping open your cable bill to see which pornos...er, I mean, G-rated family films...you've been ordering.

In practice, however, I'm pretty indifferent about the whole thing. I figure, what kind of bigshot do I think I am, that I'm worried about some giant ISP reading my lame-ass e-mails? Let 'em read. They probably don't even know who the hell I am (beyond the fact that my customer # is 1234567-890 and my bill is 3 months in arrears).

How about VOIP providers? (2, Interesting)

phr2 (545169) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575331)

VOIP packets are temporarily stored in ram at the different routers they visit as they travel the network. Does that mean that VOIP providers can listen in on phone conversations?

And what about the ECPA provision on unauthorized access to stored communications (Steve Jackson case [tomwbell.com] )? Don't they apply here?

New compression technology... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575334)

I just read an article about a new compression technology that uses the simple, but heretofore overlooked, process of multiplication. It works by taking the binary data out of a file and dividing the number by another number. Every computer file is really just a long string of 1's and 0's, which allows this total number to be divided, greatly reducing file sizes like never before. Think of it like representing 100 as 5 x 20. 5 and 20 are smaller and easily storeable, but when combined in the decompression application, they produce 100.

Using a compression number of 300, a 600 MB file can be compressed to 2 MB. This opens the window for all kinds of uses when combined with current broadband connections. Terabytes of data can be compressed to a fraction of the size and then decompressed on the fly by simply multiplying two numbers. Using a high compression number I bet I could fit my 120 GB hard drive onto a 650MB cd when this technology comes out.

Truly a new day for the internet in general, this is going to revolutionize everything (think high resolution full motion streamed video conferencing).

Re:New compression technology... (1)

Floody (153869) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575431)

Nice troll, you're sure to get a few bites on the worm.

Re:New compression technology... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575506)

Interesting... I'd prefer to use a compression number of 629145600 for a 600 MB file, though.

So you could legally... (1)

Compholio (770966) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575337)

So you could legally make a wire tap by putting a computer on the wire, converting the previously single wire into two separate segments. Then, have the computer temporarily store the information in RAM before transmitting it on to the destination (and also store the data to the disk and thereby have a legal wire tap).

If an ISP can... can gmail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575344)

If an ISP that hosts your email can read your email. - why can't a search engine that hosts your email read your email?

(or scan it - whatever)

Stored, not transmitted? Voicemail is the same... (4, Interesting)

Cytotoxic (245301) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575345)

I don't think the judge understood what he was saying. In ruling that email messages are being stored, not transmitted he completely ignores the fact that the only reason that email is sent to an ISP is so that it will be transmitted. The asynchronous method of delivery really shouldn't enter into it. However, if that is the language of the law, then that is that...

This ruling would also mean that you voicemail at your cellphone provider is wide open to being listened to as well... Nice...

Lets be rational here... (5, Insightful)

dan_sdot (721837) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575348)

Lets try to be a little rational here. I know that everyone is going to scream in the typical slashdot style about "invasion of privacy!!!!!", but lets really look at the problem.

The first thing is to understand what the Judicial Branch's job is. It is to interpret the meaning of existing laws! And looking at the law, it seems that they did a pretty good job of this.

So does this mean that I want my ISP's reading my email? Of course not!

The problem is that the legislative branch is not creating laws that keep up to speed with the ethical problems presented by technology. Lets not get on the Judges' cases for the ISPs reading our email, get on the LEGISLATORS.

In fact, I want to congratulate the judges in this case for making the ruling. Even though it is obvious that it is absurd that the ISPs are reading people's email, the judge did not overstep his authority by trying to create laws, rather than interpret them. This is one of the largest tyrannies that happens in US Politics, judges effectively creating legislation.

So here is a call to all legislators: GET ON THE BALL! New technology has created many new ethical dillemas, and we need the legislators to start dealing with them.

This is insane (4, Interesting)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575352)

Wow. This is a huge, huge, huge deal.

Among other things, this means:

* Email, the dominant form of online communication, which most of us have regarded as fairly secure, is now grabable by federal authorities or police *without a warrant*.

* Your employer may now read all your email -- previously, he had to at least inform you that he was going to monitor your network traffic ahead of time (admittedly, including such a clause in the usage policy was depressingly common, but still).

* Free email providers like Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google now are free to do anything they want with all the mail that you've ever sent or has been sent to you.

I'm sure that the EFF is scrambling to try and do something at the moment -- it'll be their most important case yet.

*IF* this is not overturned, it means that it is *impossible* to have legal privacy protection for any form of communication that is asynchronous across hosts. This affects a vast number of potential protocols.

This means that voicemail systems are *not* protected by federal wiretapping law. If you *ever* leave a message for anyone, your privacy protections are out the window.

It's debatable over whether or not this applies to web caching -- if police and federal agents can now swipe the content of your ISP's web cache (yeah, the transparent proxy that your cable ISP uses, even though you don't think you're using a proxy), they can obtain web browsing data without warrant.

This is the biggest argument I've seen yet for use of PGP. If you are not using PGP, you *have* no privacy.

Re:This is insane (1)

ambrosine10 (747895) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575480)

Email, the dominant form of online communication, which most of us have regarded as fairly secure

Are you smoking crack? Do you really think the email you send is secure?

I read you SMSs (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575355)

I've got a better idea for a T-shirt - "I read your SMSs and listen to your voicemail".

Disclaimer: Although I work for a mobile telco, I don't do this. However, the UK government might. [theregister.co.uk] . The guy in that story works for the same company I do too.

Soemthing to be said for PGP at all times (1)

eamacnaghten (695001) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575368)

There IS something to be said for ESR's and others policy of always encrypting Email using PGP. What this judgement could well have done is simply pronote that concepty.

It is also stupid. Those who are already sending out emails regarding dodgy things are probably already encrypting the email. What this is doing is getting all sorts of other people to do the same thus making it more difficult for the law-enforcers to identify the GENUINE dodgy emails.

It may be legal but still grounds for a civil suit (1)

Kurt Gray (935) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575382)

Just because it's legal does not prevent a user from hiring Johhny Cochran to haul the email provider's ass into court for some good ol' suing. Sure the provider may have fine print in their terms of service agreement but if you hire a big enough lawyer service agreements are just a technicality. If some companies inisist on being rude to customers than it's only a matter of time before the customers pull a class action lawsuit.

That's just wrong (1)

rfernand79 (643913) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575386)

So, basically they are saying that it's OK because it is not contemplated in the WireTap act. That' just wrong. And people were concerned about GMail... LOL! For some reason, I trust Google more than I trust Comcast or Verizon.

There is a solution to this problem (1)

pyro_peter_911 (447333) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575387)

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1

It is called GPG. If you're that worried about your privacy then you shouldn't be sending your emails around in plain unencrypted text. (And, if you cared, you'd know that I edited this message after generating my signature key)

Peter
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.2.1 (Darwin)

iD8DBQFA4ysB3YxiXhUBOVoRAl8fAJ9RyODBM1IOZEpjnM// Oz 7a8MKE1QCgwYx3
ItBFAxORjYx4AZRVqYH8It8=
=ugwf
- ----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

And this is why... (1)

Apocalypse111 (597674) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575390)

This is why you should encrypt your email. Further, if they can read it, then they can probably store it, and after 180 days, it is no longer considered private information, and thus all it takes is a subpoena to get at them.

My Secrets are out. (2, Funny)

cbovasso (608431) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575403)

Now my ISP will know I have a small penis, credit card debt, hair loss and can't function sexually.

Chris.

Snooping e-mail for fun and profit (1)

alanw (1822) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575411)

Perhaps OSDN should send the defendant, accused in 2001 of reading users emails in order to find out what they were interested in purchasing from Amazon, a T-shirt from ThinkGeek?"
Or perhaps an O'Really "snooping email for fun and profit" [cashncarrion.co.uk] T-shirt?

slippery slope argument (3, Insightful)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575420)

The decision finds that the Wiretap Act does not cover interception of communications where the communications are being stored, not transmitted.

That's nice. So now they can use this precedent to listen to your voicemails.

And if we move to VoIP on the telecom's backbone, then they can listen to your conversations... since it is being stored in the router's buffers alone the way.

Hmm (1)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575422)

Does this mean I could host a webserver and sell webspace and email out to people, then read all their email and take all their customer's information and well as code/databases they may create because its in my ram?

For Rent (1)

grub (11606) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575436)


Spare bedroom in Canada.
Must not mind loud music which has been legally downloaded. Should like the occasional smell of pot (which is virtually legal.) Run own mail server with GPG on it. Free spindle of 100 CDRs to first successful renter.

Land of the Free ... my ass. (1)

spectasaurus (415658) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575437)

Funny how in the same day, Canadian courts rule that ISP's are not responsible for user content, and American courts decide that they somehow are. Oh how sweet it is to be truly living in the Land of the Free again!

privacy? (4, Insightful)

rhaig (24891) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575447)

so is there anyone out there who actually thinks your email to me is actually private and won't be read by an admin of a server that queues it for delivery somewhere along the way??

it's email. there should not be any real expectation of privacy. deal with it.

As long as it's not Gmail, it's fine then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575450)

God forbid an automated machine look for keywords. Apparently only ISP employees should be able to peruse your mail.

the email was so in transit (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575456)

It was being transmitted. There's no set "speed limit" for the transit, therefore, no speed may be used to make a determination. There's no set exact determination of particlar hardware used, either AFAIK. "oops, sorry, your email took one more hop and lasted .009 milliseconds longer than what we feel is transit, it was stored for a short time so now you can look at it". It don't matter if it's milliseconds or minutes, when emailer A mashes send to recipient B, it's "in transit". When you get a package shipped from fedex, even when the truck driver stops for lunch, your package is still "in transit".

Typical corrupt black robed bogusness. More big brother crap. They will use this ruling to let the government do similar, even moreso than they do now. THAT is the reason they ruled as they did. The rest of it is FUD. These goofs get told how to rule now, they are all global big government appointed lackeys at that level, puppets.

Stupidest Opinion I have ever read!! (1)

enforcer999 (733591) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575488)

The Wiretap Act's purpose was, and continues to be, to protect the privacy of communications. We believe that the language of the statute makes clear that Congress meant to give lesser protection to electronic communications than wire and oral communications. Moreover, at this juncture, much of the protection may have been eviscerated by the realities of modern technology. We observe, as most courts have, that the language may be out of step with the technological realities of computer crimes. However, it is not the province of this court to graft meaning onto the statute where Congress has spoken. As a lawyer, I am too amazed and shocked to comment on the stupidity of this opinion. I will have to come back to it later. However, you guys should read the dissenting opinion that is included in the pdf. It makes more sense. Sheesh!

Phone tapping laws don't cover phones? (1)

BeBoxer (14448) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575501)

By this judge's logic, it's legal to tap a phone conversation as long as you don't actually capture it on the "wire"? Does he even realize that his phone calls are only one the "wire" for the first thousand feet or so from his house to the CO? Where it's promptly digitized into RAM? And as it flows thru the ATM network it's stored in RAM temporarily in every switch it passes thru? So if I somehow get access to an ATM switch carrying phone traffic and convince it to cram an OC-3 worth of voice out a monitor port that's all legal? This judge got snookered plain and simple.

Maybe this is a Blessing in Disguise (2, Interesting)

dmarx (528279) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575508)

Maybe this ruling will finally convince people to use freely avaiable [pgpi.org] encryption [mailvault.com] . I PGP as many messages as I can (I don't have anything to hide, I just don't like the idea of people snooping on me), but not many of the people I email use PGP.

Post office? (1)

iplayfast (166447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9575520)

Doesn't the post office store your letters until they are delivered? Does this mean the post office can read your mail because they are storing it....

Judge actually did a good thing here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9575525)

the judge made a decision baised upon the law as it currently stands. that is his job. and he did it well, in addition to that (at the bottom of the article) he notes that this law is being used for things other than what congress intended. which is also great, The outrageous nature of this decision will now most likely be over ruled by a higher court, and hopfully congress will get-a-clue(tm) and start writing laws that are designed to handle ne emerging technologies. In the mean time all we can do is write letters and bring this loonacy to the attention of those who can do something about it (write to your congressman, i bet they actually read at least some of those letters)

at least I hope they do.
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