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Sixth Circuit rules that the government needs a warrant to search your email

Nilay Patel
12.14.10
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Score another baby step for digital democracy: the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the government must have a search warrant before it can obtain email from your provider. Specifically, the court held in U.S. v Warshak that "it would defy common sense to afford emails lesser Fourth Amendment protection" than traditional communications like phone calls and postal mail. Yes, you'd think that would be obvious, but the specific question had never actually been raised at the appellate level before, so the decision is critically important -- it's likely that other courts will take their cue from the Sixth Circuit when faced with similar issues. As the EFF points out, however, there are several legal exceptions to the warrant requirement in the Stored Communication Act that the organization is still fighting to have amended, but hey -- we'll take every little bit of progress we can.

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