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US Wants Courts to OK Warrantless Email Snooping

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the hope-they-enjoyed-my-firefly-related-diatribes dept.

Privacy 476

Erris writes "The Register is reporting that the US government is seeking unprecedented access to private communications between citizens. 'On October 8, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati granted the government's request for a full-panel hearing in United States v. Warshak case centering on the right of privacy for stored electronic communications. ... the position that the United States government is taking if accepted, may mean that the government can read anybody's email at any time without a warrant. The most distressing argument the government makes in the Warshak case is that the government need not follow the Fourth Amendment in reading emails sent by or through most commercial ISPs. The terms of service (TOS) of many ISPs permit those ISPs to monitor user activities to prevent fraud, enforce the TOS, or protect the ISP or others, or to comply with legal process. If you use an ISP and the ISP may monitor what you do, then you have waived any and all constitutional privacy rights in any communications or other use of the ISP.'"

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"Think about it" (3, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239545)

Anytime someone tells you to "think about it" and then proceeds to explain how one little point can be logically followed to some outrageous conclusion it means that they have no real proof and are relying on your credulity to fill in the gaps in their logic.

Think about it.

Re:"Think about it" (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239575)

"Think about it" comes in the same jar as "obvious". Both have only one reason to exist, to make you look like a fool if you don't agree.

"Think about it" is usually the final sentence after a list of "proofs" that present the point of the one arguing. "Obviously" is used whenever he does not have any facts to support his theory. No facts needed, it's "obvious" and if you don't agree, you can't even see the obvious, dumbass!

Re:"Think about it" (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239589)

That's pretty obvious, if you think about it.

Re:"Think about it" (4, Informative)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239631)

Perhaps you and the GP should read TFA and become [] aware [] of some [] of the issues [] here.
Oh, and for the "it's the Register, pooh pooh" crowd, the original FA was frist psoted on Security Focus [] .

Re:"Think about it" (1, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239671)

The article by Mike Rasch is long on hyperbole and short on facts. The link to Picker's blog was more interesting, but his alarmist conclusion is not supported by his presented facts. In fact, he even says as much when he says that the pieces all seem to fit, but there is no final link outside of idle speculation.

If Mike Rasch's article is indicative of the quality of articles on SecurityFocus, then the followers of that site are dumber than the author himself.

Re:"Think about it" (4, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239785)

Human beings don't need proof to operate. We are intuitive computers, and are capable of seeing where trends overlap to produce synergistic effects. If we weren't, we would be incapable of making a decision to achieve effects larger than the span of our own lives, and yet we are.

Sometimes, "think about it" is an invitation to test your brain and see if it's broken before they write you off as an idiot who really is.


Re:"Think about it" (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239977)

Slightly off-topic, but a random quote I received today seems to be related: "I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle"

Re:"Think about it" (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240075)

Sounds like something a detective in a writer of detective fiction with a flair for the dramatic would say.

Of course, if you were to look for someone with experience being in a position of command, where who doesn't have the leisure to refuse to guess, a professional writer of fiction would probably be the absolute worst choice you could make. A housewife or a traffic cop would be better prepared.

It's very eloquent though.

Re:"Think about it" (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240109)

If everybody followed this quote, particle physics and some other sciences would not be where it is now. In those fields scientists sometimes make theories which predict something and then they make tests. Otherwise every theory would only explain data you have (like string theory) instead of making new exciting predictions (like quantum theory).

Re:"Think about it" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239611)

Like putting too much air in a ballon!

Outrageous conclusion? (4, Insightful)

voss (52565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239683)

This is the same administration...

1) Staged faked news conferences and failed to tell the real reporters
2) Cant decide whether waterboarding is torture

These people will do anything they are allowed to until they are told no and
sometimes even after they are told no.

There is a way around this, if a court says the ISP agreement is what creates
or does not create a reasonable expectation of privacy then the day after
the court rules as such then I will tell my ISP either they change their ISP
agreement to say that my emails are private and will only be disclosed upon a valid
court order or I will find a new ISP that will do so.

Re:Outrageous conclusion? (2, Informative)

rikkards (98006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239703)

Here is a better alternative []

Re:Outrageous conclusion? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239987)

If you think the current administration is responsible for the exponential growth of the US government over the past 200 years, in both revenue and power over the people, then you haven't been paying attention to history.

There's a reason why every year we are subject to more laws than the year before. There's a reason why every year government spends more than the year before. There's a reason why every year power is concentrated further into the hands of the few. There's a reason why every year you are less free than the year before.

What could the reason be? Here's a hint: It ain't because making government bigger is unprofitable for the people in the business of government.

Re:Outrageous conclusion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21240065)

either they change their ISP agreement to say that my emails are private and will only be disclosed upon a valid court order, or I will find a new ISP that will do so.

Good luck with step 2.

Re:Outrageous conclusion? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21240085)

Why should you care about government reading of your email, if you have nothing to hide? Sounds suspicious to me.

"Land of the Free" (4, Insightful)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239565)

So much for that slogan - The US and China (or even cold war Russia) are not really that different. Total government control over communications, news media under govt control, corruption (although to be fair that's standard operating practice for any govt...)

Re:"Land of the Free" (5, Interesting)

rvw (755107) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239615)

"The government".... Does that mean Bush and his mates can monitor all Democratic email traffic? That would be handy for the upcoming elections!

Re:"Land of the Free" (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239663)

I bet Nixon feels really stupid now. I mean, with a bit of planning...

Re:"Land of the Free" (4, Insightful)

Kelz (611260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239975)

Well, if the government doesn't need a warrant... does it apply to the public as well? I'd personally love to see some of the RNC's email, especially some juicy Rove memos.

Monitor Democratic e-mails? (3, Insightful)

twoallbeefpatties (615632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239985)

Here's the ironic side of this - the Democrats are pretty much in a lock to have the next White House, barring another extreme disaster that sends people running back to Big Brother again. All of these broad, sweeping changes for the power of the White House will only be partially in effect for Bush's term... and fully in effect for Obama or Clinton's term. The Democrats would like to thank the Republicans for giving them such broad power. (Not that I support either of them having it, mind you.)

Re:"Land of the Free" (4, Insightful)

arevos (659374) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239737)

The US and China (or even cold war Russia) are not really that different.
When trying to convince people of the dangers of government control, hyperbole like this doesn't help. A US citizen still has considerably more rights than a Chinese citizen.

Also, you can't reasonably expect any privacy in email unless you encrypt its contents.

Re:"Land of the Free" (1, Interesting)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239885)

Depends on what you do in your day-to-day life. Quite a few times I feel more free in China than I do than America (particularly when it comes to cellphones- carrier locking? Even the CDMA carrier here has open phones, and if it's locked, the locals will find a way to unlock it- with a couple of exceptions- not the iPhone).

Re:"Land of the Free" (1)

Monoliath (738369) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240011)

Also, you can't reasonably expect any privacy in email unless you encrypt its contents. Amen to that. I've advocated this for years to my friends and family.

I will admit though, that this attempt by 'The Bushidiots' is grotesque, and nothing but another attempt to suppress free speech.

It cracks me up how much Bush can hate Castro, yet...his administration makes requests such as these?

This coming election could not come any SOONER, and I am refusing to vote by electronic ballot. Paper only. Period.

Re:"Land of the Free" (1)

kc2keo (694222) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240113)

If you host your own email server that uses encryption aren't you in a much better position than using services like gmail or yahoo?

Re:"Land of the Free" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21240185)

We don't have any more rights than a Chinese citizen. 'Freedom' in the US has become an illusion. Free speech zones, tapping phones, email, no fly lists, etc. All because of terrorism. Well maybe we have a few more rights like govt isn't blocking foreign internet content.. yet anyway.

"Home of the brave" (0, Flamebait)

taskiss (94652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239799)

I guess we're not "Home of the brave" then, either. Given your exame, we're the "home of those who over-exaggerate"

I guess you and an idiot aren't really that different. And.. "to be fair"?!? You stretch reality to include US, China and the Soviet Union in the same class when talking freedom and privacy?

You troll. Get thee behind me.

Re:"Land of the Free" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239999)

Would it be OK if, by intercepting and decoding an encrypted email sent between New York and some MidEast country, the Feds were able to defeat a conspiracy to detonate a suitcase Nuke in New York? Or release of a BWMD? Or poison your water supply?

Or, are you and your friends and family courageous enough to accept the full meaning of the Bill of Rights and be responsible for your own protection? In exchange for keeping the 1st and 4th Amendments you'll use the 2nd to defend yourself and your family against such threats? Assuming, or course, you have the technical ability or planted covert agents that can inform you in advance of such plots.

Re:"Land of the Free" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21240003)

Having lived for the majority of my life in the USA and the past 5 years (and currently) in the ex-soviet state Estonia, I can tell you that you have no idea what it was like in Soviet Russia. The USA is not perfect, nor am I defending such actions, but the USA is still defiantly a beacon of freedom in comparison. Once we start mass deporting the Mexicans and Muslims to the middle of Arizona desert via cattle car with hardly and food or water and put them in a forced labour camp, where they are mostly killed off, then we can be compared to the Soviet Union. Until then, you still have some power via your vote so start using it instead of making up baseless analogies.

Re:"Land of the Free" (4, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240173)

The US and China (or even cold war Russia) are not really that different.

Yep... 20 mln citizens have already gone to labor camps and hundreds of thousands executed [] , while deliberately-induced starvation [] is killing millions more on conquered lands. No private property can legally exist — all enterprises belong to the State (of Workers and Peasants). It is illegal for peasants to leave their village without the headmaster's Ok (he is the one issuing them passports), and for all others to leave the country. Those suspected of subversion are tried by secret courts — either for the actual subversion, or (in the later stages of the Cold War) for "drug dealing", "gun possession", or homosexuality [] . It is illegal to own "xerox" machines and other "publishing" equipment.

Hot water is a luxury available in cities, and even the running cold water (where available) could be out for days and weeks at a time. Wait for for an apartment is counted in years (and decades), as is the wait for telephone connection. Cars are small, unreliable, polluting, expensive, but you can't get them anyway. Same is true of electronics and most other manufactured things.

Yes. America is not that different at all...

Total government control over communications

Patently false — the government is seeking access to one particular method of communication — unencrypted e-mails. Whether they get it or not, you are a fool, if you expected privacy of that to begin with...

... news media

Except the Register, right? Phew...

Postcard/envelope analogy (3, Insightful)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239571)

Using a snail-mail analogy, I can understand this. If I send a postcard out (plain email), I don't expect the message on the card to remain private, as anyone in the delivery chain can read it without any tampering. When I do want privacy, I can put my message in a sealed envelope instead (PGP encryption for email) to ensure only the recipient can read it. Seems fair to me. The general populous need to be more aware that plain email is more like a postcard than a message in a sealed envelope though.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239587)

Fun fact: What you write on a post card can't be used against you in a court of law.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (5, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239649)

Fun fact: What you write on a post card can't be used against you in a court of law.
Really? I suggest you write "I'm gonna fly a plane into the Sears Tower" on a postcard and see how much hilarity ensues.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (4, Insightful)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239685)

Everyone knows by now that they don't resort "courts" or "laws" in those kind of cases.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239833)

better yet, write "I'm gonna fly a plane into the Twin Towers" on a postcard and fake the postmark as early 2001. next thing you know the government would be using it as evidence as to why postcards should be banned

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239923)

Really? I suggest you write "I'm gonna fly a plane into the Sears Tower" on a postcard and see how much hilarity ensues.

It would probably go unnoticed.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (2, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239679)

> Fun fact: What you write on a post card can't be used against you in a court of law.

Let's see you test this. Take your fingers and make nice clear prints on a postcard, then write a death threat to the president on it and send it from your neighborhood post office to the White House. Repeat this action once every month.

Please let us know what happens (find a Slashdot-enabled lawyer before you start the experiment, please).

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239705)

Send a death threat to the president? And you think the post office is what's going to get me in trouble?

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239771)

One guy who I know from IRC sent a postcard [] when he was visiting the USA, to his german friend. The post was delivered by the german police to his friend. Funny eh.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240157)


Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239667)

And PGP is so infrequently used for general email correspondence that simply putting your missive in that PGP envelope may be enough to flag your mailbox "interesting".

What's so annoying about this is that if an interested agency CAN collect the data and it doesn't cost them anything to do so, they WILL. More data to mine. This would mean I can pretty much count on every message I receive (through an ISP mailbox) being warehoused somewhere.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (1)

cenonce (597067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239673)

In the end, however, I think your sealed envelope is more like plain e-mail. If your envelope is ripped, damaged, held up to the light or whatever and the Postal Service (or anybody) looks at the contents and sees what they believe is illegal activity, a warrant based on that info is not going to get tossed. Same as if some sysadmin, script kiddie or whoever is looking at packets as your e-mail goes through the system and somehow catches you are doing something illegal. If script kiddie gets a momentary conscience and sends your info to the police, there is no 4th amendment issue, though you may have a civil remedy (big deal once you are in jail!).

GPG or PGP are really closer to hand delivery (assuming these encryptions methods can remain ahead of the technology trying to break them).

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (5, Insightful)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239759)

The general populous need to be more aware that plain email is more like a postcard than a message in a sealed envelope though.
Which is funny, because the canonical user interface icon for e-mail is... a sealed envelope. Even ISPs will present their e-mail services with such an image.

In other words, the snagging point is the definition of "expectation of privacy" -- but the situation is really quite simple: The average user simply expects privacy, but the government is trying to force them to abandon that expectation, so they can then go and install ubiquitous e-mail surveillance without violating the letter of the US Constitution. The government is trying to win by arguing semantics, so what I find hardest to believe is that anyone is taking all this blatant skullduggery seriously. I've seen better weaseling from schoolkids trying to avoid homework assignments.

E-mail is electronic, so the message is NOT viewable in transit without making an effort to intercept and decode it, even if the encoding is just ASCII. It's not like mailing a postcard, it's like sending an electrically encoded text message over a packet-switched data network where the only expected viewing point is at the intended recipient's terminal; this is how the e-mail protocol was designed to work. Sure, a malicious party can read it because it's not encrypted, but someone can easily slice open a postal mail envelope and read the contents of that, too.

The bottom line is, since a non-trivial effort has to be made to read the contents, and since the service has always been presented as a "sealed letter", the average user is not unreasonable in expecting privacy.

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (4, Insightful)

DrFruit (1178261) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239931)

Here is another point I miss in the e-mail/postcard analogy. Even if you accept that e-mail is more like a postcard than a sealed envelope (which I agree is a false analogy and used as an excuse to erode our expectations of privacy), how does that justify routinely reading messages? Post office workers may read the occasional postcard for a laugh, but who would expect a government (or any other organisation) to routinely copy every postcard and scan it for illegal or suspect content?

Re:Postcard/envelope analogy (1)

Kelz (611260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239773)

IANAL, but it seems the government has a bit of a conundrum. Half the time people want the internet to be free/anonymous, and half the time they want it to be private information. Truthfully it can't be both, and I don't see unencrypted emails going through public ISPs as ever being called private, no matter if they are treated as such by the sender. People can look at them if they put the time in.

Now though, following with the the governments policy on encryption via the DMCA (as I understand it, once again IANAL and I have only a rudimentary understanding of these things): If the sender uses ANY sort of encryption in the email (hell, maybe even the protocols?), it becomes protected and therefore private information?

Mods, I'm sorry there isn't a (Score: -1, Wrong), so just mod me as flamebait if I'm going nowhere with this.

Postcard/envelope analogy difference (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240117)

The difference is, when you send out a letter, it takes a deliberate act of intrustion to read the contents, just as it takes a deliberate act of intrusion to read someone's email. If you get a postcard on your hand, sure, then read it. But, that's really more like someone sending you an email by mistake.

While this is an affront... (1)

Null Nihils (965047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239585)

to any citizen who believes in a free and open society, I'll be EXTRA worried when they outlaw encryption...

Re:While this is an affront... (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240019)

They can't outlaw encryption, since that will affect business badly. Nor can they outlaw encrypted emails, same reason. All they can do is make it so they can have the keys on asking, which I imagine is already the case. Mind you under this totalitarianist approach, the mere act of using encryption as a private citizen places you under suspicion.

So, how is it there in the land of the free? Good still?

Re:While this is an affront... (1)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240155)

Almost there. []

Doesn't matter anyway... (2, Insightful)

xheliox (199548) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239593)

It's not like the Bush administration cares what a court says. They'd do it regardless. It's a matter of national security, you know?

Re:Doesn't matter anyway... (3, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240091)

No, it does matter: What they're trying to do is ensure that any administration that comes after them can't prosecute them for what they've done.

In other words... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239597)

It's only fair and understandable that I use GPG and onion routing for even the most trivial matters, since now it's public knowledge that whatever I send via the internet can and will be read by anyone wanting to do so.

Using any kind of encryption is thus quite normal behaviour and can never be seen as any kind of sign that I could possibly be discussing the whereabouts of Ozzy.

Re:In other words... (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239841)

Perhaps your right, more of us should use encryption by default.
Pidgin has encryption plugins which you can use fairly transparently on a one to one basis. Talking to friends with encryption on is effortless.

So what about email how easy is it to default to encrypted and not make it awkward for the recipients to read the content?

Any recommendations?

incidentally it might have a side benefit of making encrypted mail easy to white list. would spammers have your public key ...

Re:In other words... (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240147)

The enigmail plugin for Thunderbird does a pretty good job of handling PGP'd mails semi-transparently (you have to put in your passphrase, naturally). It sets up really easily on Linux, not 100% sure about Windows though

abusive clause (1)

pitu (983343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239603)

then you have waived any and all constitutional privacy rights in any communications or other use of the ISP.'"
you agreeing on an abusive clause does not mean they have the right to spy on you... i hope so

Right.. (4, Insightful)

Morky (577776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239621)

Because, of course, terrorists are using unencrypted email to plan their misdeeds.

Re:Right.. (1)

The_Mystic_For_Real (766020) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239801)

Terrorists are not known for their computer savvy. I remember a couple years ago Al-Qaeada's supposed head of computing was arrested and he was running windows with his entire hard drive (which was full of evidence) was entirely unencrypted. Apparently they have done some things possibly with freenet that have been fairly anonymous but I would not be surprised to learn that a lot of plaintext e-mail about sensitive matters gets tossed around, like in any organization.

Re:Right.. (4, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239853)

date: Nov 5, 2007 5:00 PM
subject: ne1 up 4 ultimate tonight?


Re:Right.. (1, Troll)

JasonEngel (757582) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240071)

Naturally. And it then follows that only terrorists would ever use encryption. It's that whole "you have no reason to hide it if you aren't doing anything wrong" argument that police love so much. Funny how the land of the free home of the brave is defended most strongly against it's own citizens by the people who are typically the most patriotic (and the patriotic people are so willing to trample the rights that hypothetically make this a great country).

Because I do not support the police state, I tend to believe that I'm not doing anything wrong so they shouldn't be watching me. That is the America I believe in, but that's not the America that exists anymore. The terrorists won, and they are working for the government.

What privacy? (4, Interesting)

cenonce (597067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239625)

ISPs are not government entities, though I get that in the digital age, the line of who is a state actor and what is a state action is less clear. So there is no 4th amendment protection against what the ISPs do with your data (though there may be some statutory or common law tort theories for privacy violations). ISPs can provide you service under any terms they see fit, and you certainly don't have a constitutional right to broadband internet access.

The far more impacting (and interesting) legal question is how the courts are going to view the 4th amendment (and others) in light of the way communications are stored for eternity on the internet. A traditional approach seems unwise, since the way ISPs word their terms of service make it so your data practically falls under the "open fields" doctrine for purposes of search and seizure. On the other end of the spectrum, I don't want police investigations entirely shut down just because we want heightened protections for data that we keep in essentially insecure methods.

If you are that worried about privacy, use PGP or GPG.

Re:What privacy? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239735)

How should it affect police investigations?

Those who do have criminal activities in mind will, or do already. Do you really think those Al Quaida guys don't know how to use PGP? Do you really think they send any kind of crap unencrypted anymore? If at all, that is?

Imagine you know what you're doing is against the law. Do you do it where you can be seen and snooped, especially after hearing so much about it being used? How hard do you think it is for them to use halfway decent encryption that thwarts such snooping attempts?

So please tell me how NOT mining data would disrupt police investigations? If anything this snooping does just that. It's like adding another cubic kilometer of dung on the haystick you're sifting through to find a needle.

Re:What privacy? (2, Insightful)

cenonce (597067) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239875)

Well, first you make an assumption that all criminals, and all members of al-quaida are sophisticated enough to use encryption. In light of the crap I have seen posted on myspace, youtube, facebook and the like, that is clearly not the case.

Second, I was really making a comment on the interpreting the 4th amendment in the digital age. One of the ways that privacy, though not necessarily 4th amendment protected privacy, is "violated" is by snooping. The question is, where does the 4th amendment kick in? In light of the fact that the Internet is truly public, are we really getting it all wrong with analogizing Internet communications like regular mail.... perhaps they are more like cell phones, where any third-rate jerk who spend $50 on some technology can snoop?

Supposed the government grabs all communications as they leave your ISP? Do they need a warrant for that? Is it even a protected 4th amendment interest? I'd like to think that it is, but I don't know if it really all that much matters what the Terms of Use of your ISP are. The real question is how we are going to overall define what class of communications e-mail and the like fall into. I'd hope that we would err on the side of caution and make the government work to have access, but I see the arguments on the other side as well, some of which (i.e., don't all criminals use PGP anyway?), you have already cited.

Re:What privacy? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240187)

Remember that the 4th amendment was written before the onset of widespread real time communication. It lists that your "papers" are not to be searched without due process. Now, who would have thought back then of electrons as the means to transfer information? Information sharing included using a pen and said paper. IIRC not even the telegraph was invented back then.

The internet is also not truely public. Else, how can someone require me to pay to access his site? If it was public and all information residing on any server on the net being public, this would most certainly violate some kind of law.

This could also be why snooping on cells is illegal in most countries. I don't know about the US, but if it's not I'd call it a loophole, not the way it's supposed to be.

Re:What privacy? (1, Flamebait)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239915)

ISPs are not government entities...
Yes, they are.

ISPs, Power companies, major Airlines, Defense contractors, Major automobile manufacturers, etc, etc... These are all officially private companies, and indeed, they do have a large degree of independence. But in reality, they are off the books branches of government, who carry out the will of whoever is in power. Phone tapping, passenger screening, weapons sales. Government gives big contracts and favors, and companies need to keep them sweet. Hence, mass compliance among big business to dubious and even outright illegal Government requests.

You want an analogy? Think of the government as Al Swearengen in the first series of Deadwood. He runs the town, and everyone knows it. He's in every shady deal, but also in some sense organises the town. Big business, is like Wu, the top man in the Chinese camp. Wu conducts his own affairs and business, largely without Swearengen caring very much.

Wu needs Swearengen's continued support to keep operating in the camp, and so must keep him sweet. When Wu has problems, he takes his grievances to Swearengen, who will try to sort them out if it suits him. And often, when Swearengen needs a dirty job done, he calls on Wu services, e.g. body disposal. The two are largely out of each others hair, and on the surface, there would seem little connection. However, the two are "hang-dai" in Wu's own words, i.e. partners and comrades in all manner of shady dealing.

So remember. Big Business. Government. Hang-dai.

Re:What privacy? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239989)

I agree with this ... they guy at the top of SBC before it forcfully boughtout AT&T (for a rediculously low sum i may add) a few years ago, spent the first year in the Whitehouse with bush. I wonder why his title when at SBC was Vice President of External Affairs..
He is even so proud to admit he was in the WH with bush on his image for the company.

PGP might not be dead (2, Insightful)

LM741N (258038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239627)

It might take something like this to put PGP and the like into the mainstream.

"By the people ... for the people..." (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239633)

Maybe I have some funny concepts what the difference between a company and a government is supposed to be, but a company should first and foremost have its shareholders and owners in mind, a government its people (who're, technically, its owners).

Is it me or is that difference not quite clear here? That an ISP snoops on its users is not a good thing, but considering that its customers are just the necessary evil to get the money for its owners, they're not their main concern. The people, on the other hand, should be the main concern of a government.

It's the governments only excuse to exist at all!

We need Ron Paul (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239641)

Seriously, he's our only hope to restore the constitution and avoid a 1984-type society

Re:We need Ron Paul (-1, Troll)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239895)

Don't be fooled by the anti-globalization rhetoric. It's the only sane thing Ron Paul has likely ever said, and even then probably for all the wrong reasons. If you think that he is someone who would, even if he could, fix any of the ills of this world you have much more immediate problems than someone at the FBI reading your email.

Unprecedented is seriously inaccurate (2, Informative)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239643)

Unprecedented in the US, yes. Just about anywhere else, no. China, morocco, iran, Russia and the Netherlands are all 4 running much worse programs. (like constant monitoring for keywords for example).

And we're not even going to "really" oppressive countries like north korea or pakistan.

If you speak dutch, read [] for example.

Re:Unprecedented is seriously inaccurate (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239689)

What you say about the Dutch may be true, but email here does legally fall under protected communication. Email or Letter or Phone Conversation it doens't matter.

Now I will admit that Dutch security agency have always had more legal access to such communications. I would go so far as to say that the Americans have more privacy/security/freedom in theory. The Dutch have more invasive laws, however in practice I think we actually have more in the netherlands. At the very least I don't expect either police or prosecution to throw due process out the window. What it comes down to is that Americans seem to have come to believe that the ends justify the means, while the duthc believe that rules must always be obeyed. This meanse the Americans ignore just laws in a misguided pursuit of justice while the Duthc obey wrong laws in a misguided pursuit following.

Ah well, when somebody founds the perfect society please have them give me a call.

Re:Unprecedented is seriously inaccurate (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239807)

Actually, Russian laws require law enforcement to get a court order to wiretap anything.

Of course, I don't think the law is being followed to the letter...

Re:Unprecedented is seriously inaccurate (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240171)

The guy in the next room on the verge of dying from cancer doesn't mean the doctors should ignore your common cold.

oblig xkcd (4, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239645)

Where is there left to go? (1)

rmoehring (949487) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239653)

Are there any countries out there without horrible internet policies? Do I have to move to Christmas Island or something?

I wonder if somehow there'll be exemptions... (1)

backbyter (896397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239677)

Sounds like this could be an electronic Watergate opportunity for whichever party is in power, unless there are exemptions made.

In addition, imagine the blackmail that could take place:

"Senator X, here's copies of your email from your AOL account to Ms/Mr Y. We'd *really* appreciate your vote for our PATRIOT IX bill. And by the way, want to know what your opponents strategy is in the next election?"

No worries for me (3, Funny)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239693)

01001001 00100000 01100001 01101100 01110111 01100001 01111001 01110011 00100000 01110011 01100101 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101101 01100001 01101001 01101100 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01100111 01101001 01110010 01101100 01100110 01110010 01101001 01100101 01101110 01100100 01110011 00100000 01101001 01101110 00100000 01100010 01101001 01101110 01100001 01110010 01111001.

Re:No worries for me (1)

OnslaughtQ (711594) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240061)

46 75 6e 6e 79 2c 20 49 20 61 6c 77 61 79 73 20 73 65 6e 64 20 65 6d 61 69 6c 73 20 74 6f 20 79 6f 75 72 20 67 69 72 6c 66 72 69 65 6e 64 73 20 69 6e 20 68 65 78.

P2P Email is the answer (1)

CodeOnCoffee (1183589) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239769)

All we need is a decentralized name resolver and then the rest of the email can be purely peer to peer.

Let them read... my headers. (4, Informative)

hacker (14635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239779)

No problem... let them snoop. Now I'll just be twiddling the "Encrypt and sign all outgoing email" box on my MUA, and finally start using GPG [] full-time for all of my incoming and outgoing email, instead of with just my friends and close colleagues.

There are plugins for Evolution [] , pine [] , mutt [] , Thunderbird [] and just about every other Mail User Agent you can find out there.

Another great benefit, is that I can automatically block/quarantine/delete any and all email that does not contain a gpg-signed component (i.e. 99.999% of all email out there, mostly spam). dspam [] does an amazing job, but being able to just reject it at the MTA level would be great.

And for those that wish to converse with me, please make sure to use my GPG key [] to do so (also available here [] with detailed instructions).

Re:Let them read... my headers. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240029)

All of it? That's gonna work well when you post random encrypted crap onto a mailing list and all the outlook users go 'wha..?'

The problem with encrypted email is there are at least two competing major standards, and 99% of users don't have mail packages that understand either.. so you can't send it unless by prior agreement with your close friends. In practice this ends up as almost never.

Not so fast (2, Insightful)

bryanp (160522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239817)

Whenever someone screams "They're violating our First Amendment rights!" about some private company being restrictive, I'm one of the first to explain that the 1st protects our right of free expression from Government interference. Converseley, lets say for the sake of argument that I have waived my 4th Amendment rights to my ISP in exchange for using their email service. This doesn't mean the .gov gets to abuse them. Hopefully a half sensible judge will toss this out.

In the meantime I'll just be happy that while my ISP is in the US I don't use their email service. Good luck convincing the service I pay to use out of Norway to give up my email. ;)

Re:Not so fast (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239893)

That e-mail in Norway is eventually coming to you via your ISP... I'd be worried about them looking at that.

Honestly, as a Canadian who's company relies entirely on rented data center space. We've chosen not to put any of our services in the US because we're afraid of your Government. It seems every other day they've got a new reason why they need to look at even more data belonging to anyone they want.

Re:Not so fast (-1, Troll)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240033)

Same here- I use Japanese e-mail accounts and jump from provider to provider every so often (pulling names and addresses from a cellphone I found lying on the road- on a related note I wish NEC would start selling phones in America again).

Foreign emails too? (2, Interesting)

Peeloo (760936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239835)

Does it mean that if I use an US mail server, like gmail, from a foreign country, these mails can be wiretap too?

Re:Foreign emails too? (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239969)

Does it mean that if I use an US mail server, like gmail, from a foreign country, these mails can be wiretap too?
In that case they don't even need this ruling, communications between individuals outside of the US may be legally intercepted by the US Government at any time the Federal Government believes there is national interest at stake and has the ability to do so. The whole NSA wiretapping scandal arose from the Bush Administration's interpretation that this legal authority extended to communications between individuals outside the US and individuals inside the US. I have not looked at this closely, but some of the articles I have seen suggest that the Bush Administration interpretation was also the Clinton Administration interpretation as well (and possibly going further back).

What? (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239869)

How do you "waive a Constitutional right?", without anyone at least asking you if you mind waiving it?

They could and get a positive answer. (4, Insightful)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240005)

How do you "waive a Constitutional right?", without anyone at least asking you if you mind waiving it?

If they did ask, I bet that most of the US population would just go along with it. Because, Civil Liberties is for "criminals to hide behind", "pinko hippies", "gays", "folks who don't want God anywhere", and any other issue that the ACLU and their sister organizations have taken up.

Why, law abiding citizens do not need Civil Rights!

This country and her Constitution is in trouble my friend.

Its nuttin' but spam anyway... (2, Insightful)

crovira (10242) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239925)

Why, I'll even forward it to any address they want.

The perfect time to discover enigmail (2, Informative)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239943)

Today is the perfect time to discover enigmail [] !

The next step... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21239945)

Historical precedent for this is the only privileged communication was between a lawyer and client. And the adage, "Two people can keep a secret-- if one of them is dead."

The next step in this line of thinking is to argue conveying *any* information to *anyone* waives expectation of privacy. After all, you told someone.

The next step is mere existence waives any privacy expectation.

Ironically... (2, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239973)

...if they're going to try to monitor all email, they will have to weed through 95% of spam *first*.

This is how liberty dies... (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21239993)

...with a lengthy bill, a large cheque and a monkey in the office.

Blatantly unconstitutional (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240015)

The Constitution does not grant the Congress or the President the power to read email, so therefor, it is unconstitutional to do so. The 4th amendment affirms the rights of the people, and is not a limitation of them.

Re:Blatantly unconstitutional (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240103)

the constitution does not mention email....

I believe the point has been made several times of late that the constitution may need either replacing or significant updating. Things have changed too much. For one thing when it was written 70-80% of the US population were farmers.

How that would go in this age of corporate and special interest lobbyists is something to contemplate.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness (2, Informative)

giafly (926567) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240051)

If you've ever agreed a typical EUA, seems to me you've waived at least two of these.

The system that works (1)

Matt867 (1184557) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240135)

I think we all know they are going to do what the music industry does when they win a case. They'll just hunt down a group of people who are ridiculously tech-unsavvy and get them to rule on it

Hell No. (1)

HellYeahAutomaton (815542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240179)

Stop pissing on the very few liberties we have left!

Google?; (1)

stevedmc (1065590) | more than 6 years ago | (#21240199)

Isn't our online activity already being monitored by Google?
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