Last week the U.S. government dropped its demand that a federal magistrate force Yahoo! to fork over the contents of a user’s email account without a warrant. Although the government’s withdrawal is a victory for privacy in this case, it denies the court an opportunity to issue an opinion that could clarify this increasingly important, yet muddled, area of the law. The DOJ’s move highlights the need for Congressional action to protect privacy through a consistent set of rules
In its motion to compel, the Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed it did not need a probable cause warrant to obtain the emails because the Yahoo! accountholder had already read them. Instead, the DOJ argued, it needed only to show “specific and articulable facts” that the information was relevant to its investigation – known as a 2703(d) order. Courts disagree on whether the weaker 2703(d) standard is indeed sufficient in these circumstances.
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