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Quote of the Day - Nobody outside of a baby carriage or a judge's chamber believes in an unprejudiced point of view. - Lillian Hellman

Court Makes Your Email Open to Copying

How private is your email? Under the federal Wiretap Act, you'd think it's pretty secure.

Think again.

The First District Court of Appeals in Boston ruled that an email provider can copy your emails and read them. Interloc sold rare and used books, and as part of its services to dealers, offered them email accounts. Apparently the Court approved copying emails even if the company is trying to gain a commercial advantage - they copied incoming emails from Amazon, trying to find out what books their customers were looking for. Huh?

The Court upheld the dismissal of an indictment against Interloc's vice president (the company is not in business anymore, but its successor is also a rare and used book seller where you can still give them your email address).

Yep, even after two other people involved with the scam pled guilty, obviously thinking the Act meant something.

To me, the Court's decision is just wrong.

I'm not the only one. In a dissent that's twice as long as the majority opinion, Judge Kermit V. Lipez said the other two judges misread the law and that the ruling "will have far-reaching effects on personal privacy and security." He also wrote that the 2-1 decision "would undo decades of practice and precedent regarding the scope of the Wiretap Act and would essentially render the Act irrelevant to the protection of wire and electronic privacy."

Others are unhappy too. "This decision makes clear that the law has failed to adapt to the realities of Internet communications and must be updated to protect online privacy," said Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocacy group.

At least one other blog, The Rutherford Institute commented on the ruling.

On a somewhat related topic, in response to the FBI's attempt to open up the Act to allow even more copying of emails, there's a Petition to the FCC to stop that kind of expansion. You can't sign this petition, but you can write the FCC.

That won't address the Court's opinion. For that, you've got to write your representative or senator.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on 7/5/2004 at 12:28 Comments (1)



Comments by Tanker from United States on Tuesday, July 06, 2004 at 12:40

I've been involved in the Internet since 1987. At NO time during the last 17 years did I ever conceive that my email was secure.
Where do people get the expectation of email privacy? When you send an e-mail, it passes through countless computers owned by ?? on it's way to the recipient. It's the techno-equivalent of giving your written letter without an envelope to a trucker who'll pass it to another, etc., on it's way to your target. You can hope, but not expect it won't get read.


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