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So you might have to make some logical leaps to get to this one with me but. Would you be willing to pay to have a email address provided my the US Postal Service? Based on a reading of the law correspondence "delivered" by the postal service would be federally protected. Maybe its time for the mail service to go digital.

The USPS was pitching email services like a decade ago. The argument was exactly that -- tampering with their emails would be a federal offense.

I don't understand why in this case, MS couldn't have easily gotten a subpoena, anyways.

You can't get a subpoena issued against yourself any more than you can sue yourself. This should be obvious...

Well, yes you can...one branch of a company could legally compel (and would if there are separate privacy policies) another to give up information as part of an investigation.

Even if the branches aren't distinct legal entities? IANAL, but according to Microsoft Deputy Counsel John Frank, "Courts do not issue orders authorizing someone to search themselves" [1].

[1] http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/03/arrest-of-secret-...

You're not asking for a search warrant, you're asking to be allowed ('compelled') to look at a specific business record that groupA made but isn't accessible to groupB without permission of record_creater, UserX, or court order. Basically you're asking the court to say its OK to go around privacy or contractual obligations in order to investigate something.

I would even pay for that.

Heck they could provide a google-for-domains for the Post Service customers, and still have gmail interface.

With federal protection.

I think to meet the legal test it would have to hit servers controlled by the USPS so that it would be considered "delivered by USPS" but yeah pretty much...

I'm pretty sure the contract with Google would include "Google may not inspect the content of email except to insure proper operation of the system, upon penalty of... blablabla US Postal Code...blahblahblah ...fines ...felony... prison... etc..."

Not sure if that would help since they're already logging all physical mail.


> Only the outside of the mail is [scanned], as opening mail would require a warrant.

Opening is entirely different from scanning the front and back of every item of mail. The linked article is about scanning the front and back of every mail item, which is done domestically.

Metadata is extremely useful.

Is the protection still in effect if the email is handled by a third party? If the email goes to your ISP I would think it can be looked at there since it hasn't reached the Post Office yet.

Contractors are used all the time to truck/fly postal mail around. They need to be bonded probably.

Yes but isn't that after the Post Office has taken delivery?

And then the NSA would have an easier time reading our email. No thanks.

Why would it be easier for the NSA to monitor the USPS than to monitor a private company?

Because they are both branches of the government. The USPS has no incentive to tell taxpayers the NSA is spying on them. At least with a private company there is a profit motive, and they could lose customers over bad press.

> with a private company there is a profit motive, and they could lose customers over bad press

Which means that companies are only going to want to hide, downplay, and pretend to prevent such spying. This sounds familiar..

Furthermore, a private company can just bill the government.

> In December 2012, for instance, Microsoft emailed DITU a PDF invoice for $145,100, broken down to $100 per request for information, the documents appear to show. In August 2013, Microsoft allegedly emailed a similar invoice, this time for $352,200, at a rate of $200 per request. The latest invoice provided, from November 2013, is for $281,000.

from http://www.dailydot.com/news/microsoft-compliance-emails-fbi...

And yet, RSA didn't come totally clean. Other companies can be served with gag orders preventing them from informing their customers of what's going on behind the scenes.

Furthermore, the NSA reading email is effectively a data breach, and many companies take the view that hiding a data breach is a good thing - no press about data breach means no bad press means no lost customers.

The USPS is answerable to Congress, and that makes it rather more accountable to the public than a firm that's only answerable to its shareholders (who, in the US at least, have virtually no input into the governance of a firm).

The CIA is answerable to your Congress, too. How's that accountability working out for you?

Rather better than it is for the CIA, apparently.

Companies also answer to their customers.

they seem to be having a pretty easy time right now... there are no laws protecting you where google is concerned but there are many protecting you where the post office is concerned.

I don't think it would be much easier/harder, but at least it would be obviously constitutionally illegal rather then a grey area as it is now.

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