At least one U.S. judge doesn’t think the federal government should be given access to massive amounts of our email, even as part of a criminal investigation.
The Feds were asking for all emails, instant messages, chat logs and other communications from Google, Yahoo, Verizon, Skype, and Go Daddy, covering all the people the government suspected of being involved in a theft. It was part of an investigation into $US5,000 worth of computer equipment stolen from Sprint.
The judge was disturbed by how much snooping the government wanted to do. He said this warrant was like asking the post office to turn over “all mail ever sent by or delivered to a certain address so that the government can open and read all the mail” to find evidence of a crime.
His answer was no.
Further, he wrote a long ruling advocating Fourth Amendment rights, the expectation of privacy, for email stored by third parties. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether cloud email is covered by the Fourth Amendment. But lower courts have ruled that email is covered, the way phone calls and regular mail are.
This one denial won’t exactly gut government spying programs like the NSA’s PRISM program. But it’s interesting to see a federal judge say no. And this one is meaningful too, because Judge Waxse is known as one of then nation’s leading “e discovery” experts, covering what types of electronic documents can be used as evidence.