Congress decided to kill an amendment to an older piece of legislation that would have prevented authorities from viewing a person’s e-mail messages without obtaining a warrant.
The amendment would have been applied to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and it was originally included in the same vote that allowed Netflix users to link their viewing data with their Facebook account, which the Senate successfully passed last week. We don’t know exactly why Congress yanked the e-mail protections, but my guess is that it wanted to take a more substantial look at the issue.
Federal authorities can currently collect e-mail messages and data from cloud services that’s stored on a third-party server for at least 180 days. Right now, no warrant is currently needed to obtain this information, and authorities only need to claim that such private data is important to an (any) ongoing investigation.
Lets hope the next body of congress can hammer out a real solution to online privacy before 2014.