Friday, May 17, 2013

Abandoned Property?

Privacy is a concern of mine so I found this Wall Street Journal report quite interesting. It is entitled, "How to Stop the FBI From Reading Your Email." The FBI holds that any email that is greater than six months old and is still on a server is abandoned property. As such, they say they don't need to obtain a warrant to read that email. According to report Jonnelle Marte, this stems from a law written in 1986. I wish she had been a bit more specific as to which law treats it as abandoned property.

The reporter suggests two things to prevent the FBI from snooping into your email. First, there is encryption but both the sender and receiver need to have the key. The second is actually much easier - delete older emails or download them from the server to your own harddrive.

For people using Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or something similar for their email, this is a good reminder to clean out your in-box and archives. While I use Gmail for some things, I tend to use my older email account for more sensitive and personal stuff in combination with Mozilla Thunderbird. It downloads directly to my hard drive and doesn't leave anything on their server.

UPDATE: The law in question is the Stored Communications Act of 1986. More on the law here. Thanks to Bill G. for the info.

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