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Reading someone's Gmail doesn't violate federal statute, court finds (arstechnica.com)
27 points by CodeMage 1624 days ago | hide | past | web | 18 comments | favorite

For perspective, they found it doesn't violate the SCA, but it may still violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Anyway, their reading of the law lends itself to a requirement to maintain (at least) two copies of a message (one the primary, and others the backups). If there is only one "copy" then it cannot be a backup.

So if I sync my emails to my phone than I have two copies and according to their logic the online one is a backup, right?

How do I know? I'm a techie. :-)

From a utilitarian perspective, most emails I don't need to keep around once I'm done reading them, so any copy is a backup (just in case I need it again, but not because I know I'll need it again). If I know I'll need it again, then the online copy is the instrument of record.

From a multiple copy standpoint, if I don't clear my browser cache, the online form is a backup, (one could "argue").

Agreed. More than likely, it is in violation to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

IANAL, but it seems that you could extend this finding to argue that music and video files could be copied freely as long as they are in the cloud.

If you do it to a judge or congressman, i'm sure that would change ASAP

It was done to Sarah Palin's Yahoo! mail, and the person who did it was prosecuted. (Rightfully, IMO, despite my feelings that Palin was not VP material.) My quick review on Wikipedia confirms my memory that it was a Stored Communication Act violation there, too.

The cynical part of me says that they would just exclude themselves.

To the tune of 'national security' or something equally ominous.

When letting Google or Yahoo store the email in the cloud one assumes that _they_ keep a backup - indeed that there are several copies of the messages stored - so this seems weird.

This mostly seems to indicate that the Stored Communications Act is out of date. Unfortunately it is not likely to improve if the current Congress goes mucking around with it.

So, _hypothetically_, what if you don't use a third party email provider? That is, all your mail is delievred directly to you and is stored on your local machines/devices.

Does that give you more privacy protection than keeping messages stored with some third party in the cloud? Or does it give you less protection?

Can anyone tell me what the legal repercussions would be for a person breaking into a locked file cabinet and making a copy of personal letter belonging to someone else?

Seems to me they're muddying the waters here with a lack of technical comprehension about electronic data transfer and storage.

It seems more like the law was written to be as narrow as possible in achieving its goal, as I believe laws should be. The problem is that the law's goal was very different from how it was being applied in this case, and the courts decided that instead of bending the law, they would follow it.

It might be legal, but it isn't right.

Isn't it a backup of the data in the person's brain, and thereby considered "electronic storage"?

Unless your brain has a USB socket, no.

But still makes you feel dirty inside.

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