For several years now, the Internal Revenue Service has been telling its agents that it has the right to read people’s private emails and check out their Facebook postings, all without having any probable cause that their targets have done anything wrong and without obtaining warrants.
The sad news is, the IRS might be right. According to what pretty much everyone agrees is a ridiculously outdated law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) states that looking at opened email and email older than six months does not require a warrant, while unopened email and email less than six months old does. But in 1986 when this act became law, the average U.S. citizen didn’t even use email!
Congress has taken some steps to update this act, but the effort is not going quickly enough for Colorado Democratic Senator Mark Udall and others. Referring to the ECPA and the IRS’ tactics, Udall said, “This is an affront, not only to our system of checks and balances, but also to our fundamental right of privacy…I urge the IRS to reconsider its overreach.”
Fox News exposed this in an article titled, “IRS Tells Agents It Can Snoop on Emails Without a Warrant, Internal Documents Show.” Of course, the IRS is just one of the government agencies taking advantage of this outdated law.
Does it make sense to you that a Congressional act dealing with Internet privacy should be 27 years old, especially when the volume of online communications has grown so much through the years? Do you believe that people’s email communications deserve the same amount of legal privacy that a hand-written letter or a phone conversation would? Chime in on this!