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Congress Drops Warrant Requirement To Watch Email

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The federal government will continue to access Americans’ emails without a warrant, after the U.S. Senate dropped a key amendment to legislation now headed to the White House for approval.

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Last month, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amendment attached to the Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments Act (which deals with publishing users’ Netflix information on Facebook pages) that would have required federal law enforcement to obtain a warrant before monitoring email or other data stored remotely (i.e., the cloud).

The Senate was set to approve the video privacy bill along with the email amendment, which would have applied to a different law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. But then senators decided for reasons unknown to drop the amendment.

Currently, the government can collect emails and other cloud data without a warrant as long as the content has been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more. Federal agents need only demonstrate that they have “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful in an investigation.

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