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Oct 2, 2012
Posted By Andrews Law Office

The Huffington Post (a site that I highly recommend) has reported that the Department of Justice has obtained 37,616 court orders for information about phone calls of United States citizens and social media profiles. This is a massive increase from 2009.

The American Civil Liberties Union, utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, has reported that more than 40,000 people were targeted for internet and email information for use in criminal investigations.

Here’s how it works: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) enables the government to collect the metadata from citizen calls, emails, or instant messages. In this scenario, metadata for these mediums of communication tell the government the follow: who sent the message or call, who received it, and the time it was sent and received.

Thus, the government is using this information obtained without the use of a court ordered search warrant to expand the scope of targets of their investigations, even if the substance of the email is innocuous. The ECPA does NOT allow the government to read the actual email or message, however, they can use the contact between a target of their investigation and an innocent third party as grounds to bring the innocent third party under the scope of the investigation either as a subject or a target. This would now enable the government to seek a court order to access the contents of the email or message.

This is just another unintended consequence of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which doesn’t really promote privacy of communications.

In closing, always remember that face to face is better than any other mode of communication.

Will have updates on a few of our other cases later this week.

-SRA