Warshak v. USA

Update On 6/18/07: Sixth Circuit issues opinion upholding district court's injunction against secret warrantless seizures of email

In Warshak v. USA EFF is fighting to make sure that your email is as safe against government intrusion as your phone calls postal mail or the private papers you keep in your home.

This case was brought by Steven Warshak to stop the government's repeated secret searches and seizures of his stored email using the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA). In a landmark ruling the district court held that the SCA violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing secret warrantless searches and seizures of email stored with a third party.

The government which has routinely used the SCA over the past 20 years to secretly obtain stored email without a warrant appealed the decision to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court is now primed to be the first circuit court ever to decide whether email users have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their stored email.

In a friend-of-the-court brief EFF and a coalition of civil liberties groups argue in support of the district court's ruling. Email users clearly expect that their inboxes are private but the government argues the Fourth Amendment doesn't protect emails at all when they are stored with an ISP or a webmail provider like Hotmail or Gmail. EFF disagrees and argues that the Fourth Amendment applies online just as strongly as it does offline.

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