Gchat can be a welcome haven from the turmoil of the work day, a blinking beacon that serves as an important reminder of your humanity. And yet, the things you’ve typed into that little chat box without clicking the “off the record” button–the fights and breakups and conversations that basically amount to cybering? And all those emails you sent in college with thinly veiled references to drugs? It’d be embarrassing for anyone to read all that, let alone the Po Po.
Luckily for us, cops may finally need a warrant to dig into your inbox. Phew.
According to Ars Technica, a new bill that will be introduced into the Senate Judiciary Committee today would require a probable-cause warrant to access Gmail. Currently, because Gmail is stored on a remote server and not directly on a person’s personal computer, law enforcement doesn’t need a warrant to access it the same way they do to read your hard drive. They only require consent from the email service, Google. If it passes, this bill would make it much more difficult for cops to read through (and probably laugh at) your emails.
When Congress passed the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a time when massive online storage of e-mail was essentially unimaginable, it was presumed that if you hadn’t actually bothered to download your e-mail, it could be considered “abandoned” after 180 days. By that logic, law enforcement would not need a warrant to go to the e-mail provider or ISP to get the messages that are older than 180 days….
If this [new] bill does pass, it would instantaneously provide significantly more privacy to everyone in America who sends e-mail, uses Facebook, Twitter, Google Docs, or communicates online in essentially any way.
If passed, the bill would be a win for privacy hawks everywhere. As an added bonus, it could save you the embarrassment of having to explain to cops why you sign all your emails “YOLO.”