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Email Records: You're Going To Need A Warrant For That (Maybe)

If US authorities want access to your email and other online data, they’re going to have to get a warrant first, thanks to a new bill that was approved by the US Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, the bill would amend the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and void a particular section that states the government can obtain a person of interest’s digital data without probable cause. It would change the current state of things which allow Feds to get ahold of emails without a warrant if the content’s been stored on a third-party server for more than 180 days. But the government can still go behind your back and ask your ISP for your data, and it doesn’t have to let you know it has your online info for 90 days.

It also includes a provision that would keep people from automatically publishing what they’re doing on Facebook. Regardless of a few caveats, the bill is for the most part an important step in the ongoing battle for our online privacy. The ECPA is the opposite of current and in painful need of updating. But it will probably be edited quite a bit before it even comes to a vote, and it won’t make it to the Senate floor until sometime in 2013.

In the meantime, the important thing is that the discussion about our online privacy is actually happening. [Patrick Leahy via Wired via The Verge]

Image: Patrick Leahy


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