Senate Approves Warrantless Email Snooping

21a3enhanced buzz 11534 1356525859 8 600x400 Senate Approves Warrantless Email Snooping

Language to end the practice was quietly dropped just before the holiday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Image by Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Legislation sent to President Obama this week quietly removed language in the bill that would have — for the first time — forced law enforcement to warrant to read Americans’ email. Currently, private email that has been stored on a third-party for more than 180 days can be accessed by the government without a warrant.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had added the provision demanding that police show probable cause for email searches to legislation primarily aimed to allo users the ability to post on their Facebook feeds what they are watching on video service. The bill, the Video Privacy Protection Act, changed existing laws passed in 1988 which made it illegal disclose someone's video rental history following the leaking of failed-Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's video history to the Washington City Paper.

The bill was praised by Netflix as a modernizing of the law “giving consumers more freedom.” It passed the Senate on a voice voice vote, but without the language that forced law enforcement to obtain warrants rather than simply subpoenas to snoop into private emails.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) railed against the removal.

“If Netflix is going to get an update to the privacy law, we think the American people should get an update to the privacy law,” Chris Calabrese, the legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union told Wired.

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Senate Approves Warrantless Email Snooping


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