The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Editorial- New law will protect emails on cloud

It is alarming that emails stored in the cloud could be legally accessed without a search warrant.

Paula Lara/The Collegian

The Email Privacy Act, which aims to fix a significant flaw in a 30-year-old law, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 6.

Hopefully, it will advance with the U.S. Senate’s approval to President Donald Trump’s desk this year.

If enacted, a search warrant will be required to access electronic content stored by a service provider, with a few exceptions, such as impeding law enforcement.

With the vast quantity of personal information already stored online, it is easy to forget that once something enters the electronic realm, it cannot be deleted. Hosting services have multiple copies on multiple servers, which is great for speed but makes the information more vulnerable depending on how long it has been stored.

It is currently too easy for a government body to obtain access to electronic content, such as email, stored by an internet service provider.

Under current law, access to content stored for more than 180 days requires a mere subpoena or court order while access to content stored for 180 days or less requires a warrant.

Emails can reveal telling personal details such as illness and employment issues people typically only share with close friends and family. People are creative with information and could use such information with malice.

Because electronic communications are not subject to the same federal laws as physical mail handled by the U.S. Postal Service, the expectation of privacy that exists with sending mail is not guaranteed when sending email.

This is where the Federal Communications Commission comes into play. The FCC now regulates U.S. interstate and international communications via cable, wire, satellite, TV and radio.

Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) with both Republican and Democratic support, the Email Privacy Act will correct the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 by establishing a standard approach to stored content access without regard to storage time.

More notably, doing so will also preserve U.S. citizens’ reasonable expectation to privacy as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

While the Fourth Amendment was composed long before the advent of email, its intention is still clearly relevant today.

It protects people from arbitrary searches and demands valid justification to conduct a search. If the Email Privacy Act fails to become law, then constitutional infringement will persist.

U.S. laws do not keep pace with any type of technological development, but email is of particular concern in that so much daily personal and business life is being conducted via email.  

Regardless of what party is in office, it is always our government’s duty and obligation to preserve U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights.

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