Stored Communications Act

Facebook’s lawyers have been looking for a rumble over the company’s responsibility to turn over user account information in legal cases. Now they’ve got one, thanks to a California juror and his grandstanding defense attorney.

The case stems from a gang violence criminal trial. Members of the Killa Mobb were being tried for a 2008 attack on a San Francisco man at a gas station. One of the 12 angry apathetic men in the jury box, Arturo Ramirez, posted to Facebook during the course of the trial that it was “boring.” Now the Killa Mobb’s defense attorneys want to get a hold of those postings, and any responses from Ramirez’s friends, to prove that he may have been biased — so the Mobb members can get a new trial.

Facebook refused to turn over Ramirez’s information, citing a 1986 law that protects Americans’ electronic communications. Ramirez originally told the Sacramento Bee that he was willing to turn the status messages over, but that was before he linked up with his own defense attorney, Ken Rosenfeld, who looks like he might like a little media attention. Rosenfeld’s now planning to fight tooth and nail to keep his client’s Facebook privacy settings high…

Continue reading at The Not-So Private Parts….

Why is Bob smiling? Because police now need a warrant to check his email (joke stolen from Julian Sanchez).

Thanks to a huge decision out of the Sixth Circuit, your email and the Fourth Amendment just got better acquainted. The police need to get a warrant to take a peek at the contents of someone’s inbox, writes Judge Danny Boggs — once rumored to be on the SCOTUS shortlist — in the court’s opinion (PDF, via a thrilled EFF).

The court says that the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which grants law enforcement access to email older than 180 days old with a simple subpoena or court order, is unconstitutional, since it enables the police to conduct unreasonable searches.

“This is a very big deal,” writes law professor Paul Ohm. “[T]his is the opinion privacy activists and many legal scholars, myself included, have been waiting and calling for, for more than a decade. It may someday be seen as a watershed moment in the extension of our Constitutional rights to the Internet.”

The case that led to the decision dealt with extensions of a different variety. The defendant that challenged the po-po’s warrantless search of his email is Steven Warshak, the mastermind behind Enzyte, a questionable herbal supplement purported to increase the size of a man’s erection. Sometimes, new constitutional protections pop out of the strangest places…

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