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rawstory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 09:30 PM
Original message
Court rules email providers can read subscribers' messages
Edited on Wed Jun-30-04 09:35 PM by rawstory
Holy shit: http://www.rawstory.com

Here's one to counter Drudge's kerry exclusive...

Ruling has huge implications for online privacy rights
The Associated Press
Updated: 8:38 p.m. ET June 30, 2004

BOSTON - In an online eavesdropping case with potentially profound implications, a federal appeals court ruled it was acceptable for a company that offered e-mail service to surreptitiously track its subscribers messages.

A now-defunct online literary clearinghouse, Interloc Inc., made copies of the e-mails in 1998 so it could peruse messages sent to its subscribers by rival Amazon.com Inc. An Interloc executive was subsequently indicted on an illegal wiretapping charge.

An advocacy group said Tuesdays ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opens the door to further interpretations of the federal Wiretap Act that could erode personal privacy rights.

It puts all of our electronic communications in jeopardy voice mail, e-mail, you name it, said Jerry Berman, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. I think it violates the letter and spirit of the statute.

I'm culling a bunch of wire stories into a fuller article at (there's more responses from privacy advocates, etc.):
http://www.bluelemur.com/index.php?p=38

This AP article is at: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5336185 /

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madinmaryland Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 09:32 PM
Response to Original message
1. Damn, now i can talk dirty
to my wife over im. cheneying asscroft
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PartyPooper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 09:34 PM
Response to Original message
2. Folks, welcome to 1984!
:scared:
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stepnw1f Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 09:38 PM
Response to Original message
3. It Seems We Lose A Right Every Week Now
Holding down the good consumers. Assets are middle fingers...
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boobooday Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 09:45 PM
Response to Original message
4. Raise the Psycho Alert Level!
Their mission of turning America into a police state is clipping right along . . .



http://www.wgoeshome.com
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livinginphotographs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 09:45 PM
Response to Original message
5. A few months after 9/11
my friend sent an email on yahoo to another friend of his, and jokingly said in capital letters "Death to America!!!" The email was returned to him undeliverable, despite the fact that the email address was totally correct.

Hmmmmm....
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1monster Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 09:57 PM
Response to Original message
6. It's time to start typing e-mail messages in incomprehensible random
and silly code, i.e. the ST The Next Generation episode where Picard must communicate with a person from another planet in allegories. One could use a favorite or obscure book as a basis for the code using page and paragraph numbers to refer to various words or phrases, always making sure that one has several different numbers for the same words and phrases.

I don't have anything to hide and don't do all that much e-mailing anymore, but the whole idea of any yayhoo corporation/employee having the RIGHT to invade my privacy just makes me steam! :grr:
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rawstory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 10:06 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. I just saw that episode!
Or buy your own domain and get a POP3 account -- but then the company holding your domain can probably STILL read your messages...
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raifield Donating Member (350 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 10:21 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Or get ShyFile...
Encrypt your email message in the ShyFile program using your personal key, then email the encrypted ShyFile file to your friend, who has your personal key, who can decrypt it.

The program apparently does as high as 6144bit encryption using a key that is 1024 characters long (also creates random keys).

It's sixty dollars unfortunately, but 6144bits is a LOT of encryption.

www.shyfile.net
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rawstory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 10:48 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. do you use it?
that is a long encryption key. but then, don't you have to email everyone you email this decrypter?
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raifield Donating Member (350 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 11:06 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Me and a friend used it at college
We used it all through college last year, since the campus policy was to store ALL emails for two weeks for some reason or another. So what we did to get around the problem you just brought up was simple.

We agreed on a simple encryption key, the two last names of our Psychology professors, encrpyted our 768bit key with it (we weren't too keen on a key with 1024 characters, 768 is something like 40 characters or so), then emailed that.

Thus, our "main" key, which was 768bits, was encrypted within the email using the simple key. Then he decrypted the passphrase and we used that from then on.

I generally don't use it at home though, since there doesn't seem much point. However, I may start doing so now that this has come to pass.
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jayfish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 12:14 AM
Response to Reply #9
17. Don't Worry, The Federalies Will Take Care Of Your Encryption.
They will either require you to give up your keys or make developers build "back-doors" into the program that allow them to read your mail anyway. Since e-mail service providers have the right to access your mail they will also be privy to these "tools". Hell they might just ban personal encryption outright. It's just a matter of time.

...all in the name of the War On Terra

Jay
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rawstory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 10:19 PM
Response to Original message
8. It saddens me...
that posts about paula jones go flaming and nobody seems to care about this... :(
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PartyPooper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 11:26 PM
Response to Reply #8
13. Amen!
:-(
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GoddessOfGuinness Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 10:46 PM
Response to Original message
10. Does this mean phone companies
will now be able to eavesdrop on our conversations as well?
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BattyDem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 11:54 PM
Response to Original message
14. This is total bullsh*t!
The court ruled that because e-mail is stored, even momentarily, in computers before it is routed to recipients, it is not subject to laws that apply to eavesdropping of telephone calls, which are continuously in transit.

What about voice mail? It is stored and not continuously in transit. So does that mean phone companies can now listen to your messages? If you're using a cell phone to do business and your clients leave messages on your voice mail, doesn't this open the door for phone companies to use that information to help their own investments?

:wtf: :grr:
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Kimber Scott Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-30-04 11:57 PM
Response to Original message
15. Damn activist judges!
:scared:
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dArKeR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 12:05 AM
Response to Original message
16. Court: E-mail providers can read messages - MSWHORE
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rawstory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 07:29 AM
Response to Reply #16
18. thanks
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rawstory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 01:17 PM
Response to Reply #18
27. Why MSWHORE?
Not disagreeing, just wondering where that came from...
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 08:28 AM
Response to Original message
19. Everybody seems to have forgotten one thing:
If the law was interpretted to say that e-mails could not be read by providers, we would lose two VERY useful tools - virus scanners and spam filters!

How do people think these tools work? They work by reading the contents of the e-mail, and filtering out those e-mails that meet certain criteria.

So not only do we accept providers reading our mail, we sometimes demand it!
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raifield Donating Member (350 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 08:50 AM
Response to Reply #19
20. Wrong
The virus scanner on your computer, such as Norton AntiVirus, compares incoming emails to a virus definition list on your hard drive. If the email is infected, it takes care of the problem locally, on your computer. Your provider has absolutely nothing to do with this at all.

Same thing with spam filters. That can very easily be set in your favorite email program or online Internet email service without the provider ever getting involved.

So, yes, the tools do read the contents of the email, or parts of it, and filters it out, but nothing goes online. It's all on your computer.

Plus, the provider's virus scanner or spam filter doesn't exactly read your email. In the case of the virus scanner, it looks for a bunch of bits strung together in a certain way. No one is reading my email about my latest idea for a banana fork. Same thing with the spam filter. Just looking for certain keywords, which are totally useless anyway, since spam usually contains innocuous subjects such as 'Hello' these days.

In closing, the only thing you would lose is your privacy.
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 09:05 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. No, YOU are wrong...
Many of the best email providers, including Hotmail have AV scanners that scan your mail before it even reaches your computer.

as for this:

That can very easily be set in your favorite email program or online Internet email service without the provider ever getting involved.

You do know you just contradicted yourself, don't you? An "online Internet email service" is the "provider" I am talking about.

Plus, the provider's virus scanner or spam filter doesn't exactly read your email. In the case of the virus scanner, it looks for a bunch of bits strung together in a certain way. No one is reading my email about my latest idea for a banana fork. Same thing with the spam filter. Just looking for certain keywords, which are totally useless anyway, since spam usually contains innocuous subjects such as 'Hello' these days.

Looking for key words IS reading your e-mail! Come on, think about what you are saying!

Let me make an example that you might understand. A spam filter reads for certain keywords, phrases and patterns of same. It then marks that e-mail as spam.

A spy program looks for certain keywords, phrases and patterns of same, and then marks that e-mail as being of interest. What if the provider uses such a program to find out how often you e-mail about sex?

They can develop information based on content paterns (if it contains the phrase "blow job" it is a sex related e-mail, for example) and participants.

Using such a program, a service provider could find out if you were likely to be having an affair, for example, without ever physically reading a single message.

That is what I mean by this law can ONLY be interpretted one of two ways - either they can read your mail and thus provide services such as AV and spam filtering, along with less desirable applications, or they can't.
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raifield Donating Member (350 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 09:29 AM
Response to Reply #21
23. Okay, valid...
Looking for key words IS reading your e-mail! Come on, think about what you are saying!

Well, literally, yes it is, but wouldn't a keyword need context for the message of the email to be known? If I have 'sex' as a subject, I could be emailing my girlfriend or it could be a biology email or something. Of course, though, I wouldn't use 'sex' in any email, since many spam filters would zap that. Still, I think context is needed to understand the message of any email.

That is what I mean by this law can ONLY be interpretted one of two ways - either they can read your mail and thus provide services such as AV and spam filtering, along with less desirable applications, or they can't.

That brings me back to my original point, which is that the deisrable services, such as virus scanning and spam filtering, can be self-provided by the user easily using one or two simple programs. That's why I'm totally against this. The rationale for email peeking on the grounds of spam filtration is bogus. Outlook Express, the default Windows mail program, has a configurable spam filter and can be set up to work with Internet (Hotmail and the like) email providers too.

Given that, I don't see why ISPs need to be reading our email for any reason at all.
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 02:29 PM
Response to Reply #23
28. That is why I refered to patterns...
Well, literally, yes it is, but wouldn't a keyword need context for the message of the email to be known?

The same can be said of spam. That is why spam filters use complex algorithms to detect spam, and not just simple keyword searches. The point is, any program that can filter spam, can filter any other kind of content, no matter what it is about, aqll that is needed are different pattern algorithms.

That brings me back to my original point, which is that the deisrable services, such as virus scanning and spam filtering, can be self-provided by the user easily using one or two simple programs.

But the whole point of these online spam filters and AV scanners is to avoid these messages getting to your computer at all. Without online spam filters, you would have to download hundreds of messages a day, just so that your computer could recognise them as spam and delete them - a major waste of resources.

Added to that, many spam e-mails can only be recognised by the fact that identical messages are sent to multiple recipients on the providers service. Your computer would not be able to tell if such messages were duplicated on every hotmail account (for example) and thus would not be able to filter them out.

So there are two good reasons why spam filtering is best done on the provider's machines instead of your own.

The point is: you either take it all - providers can read your emails, or lose it all - they can't read it, even if reading it would help you.
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gauguin57 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 09:16 AM
Response to Original message
22. This is appalling!
YES, why aren't more people freaking about this. I have nothing to hide, but the whole idea gives me the creeps, and convinces me that the Constitution is on the way out the door! Cheneying Judges!
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rawstory Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 10:25 AM
Response to Reply #22
24. No kidding.
:(
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gauguin57 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 10:32 AM
Response to Reply #24
25. I was thinking ...
... AOL can read my email messages, they might read my confirmations from Amazon, Lands End, whomever else I order things from. And then I'd mysteriously start getting lots and lots and lots of messages from all kinds of "AOL Shopping" sites. One more way to get information about me.

Not to mention when I call Bush, Cheney, Asscroft, etc. every name in the book! "Open up! This is the FBI! We just want to ask you a few questions!" Like that guy whose gym buddies ratted him out in "Fahrenheit 9/11".
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JM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 10:58 AM
Response to Original message
26. There is a larger issue with this case
If we use the argument of virus scanning/spam filtering versus what this company was doing, then we get the following:

Virus scanning can and should be done at more than one level. The concept behind virus scanning is protection of a national/worldwide infrastructure resource. To assume that every user is going to scan to help protect the internet is folly. Therefore the assumption would be they wont, so protect at the next level higher.

On the other hand, what the company in the court case was doing was scanning messages for fun and profit. It had nothing to do with protecting anything, and what they were doing had no benefit to anyone else but themselves. This is a fundamental difference.

In addition, it has been my experience that if a server upstream has found a virus in an email intended for me, it strips it but still notifies me.

I doubt the company in question in the case was notifying customers it was scanning their email for evidence of email from their competitor...

I think companies are going to find a fine balance now with services they offer. I use an online accounting package instead of having it on my machine. This way mutiple users at multiple locations can use it, and they back it up for me. If this ruling is opening up the slippery slope, then forget it. I won't use it. The companies providing online services will then lose money and fight.

I think the jury is still out on the future of this ruling. It will go higher.

JM
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Devils Advocate NZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-01-04 02:43 PM
Response to Reply #26
29. Too true...
Virus scanning can and should be done at more than one level. The concept behind virus scanning is protection of a national/worldwide infrastructure resource. To assume that every user is going to scan to help protect the internet is folly. Therefore the assumption would be they wont, so protect at the next level higher.

So it is not what they are doing (reading personal emails) its what they are doing with the information they gather.

In other words, any law aimed at preventing what this company did would have to be carefully worded so as not to ban the process used, but the purpose it was put to.

If you ban providers reading mail, would that prevent them from refusing to forward mail from designated sources? In other words, if this particular company wanted, they could just refuse any email sent from Amazon.com.

Is the next step forcing providers to accept ANY email regardless of the source? If so, how does that square with the rights of the provider to provide only the services they choose to the customers they choose?

What about other internet services? Will web servers have to stop tracking referrers, considering that is basically seeing what you last viewed? Isn't that a similar breach of privacy?

Other privacy breaching services (such as adware) include licenses that inform the user they are being monitored. Can an e-mail provider write a similar agreement that says if you want to use their service you have to consent to having your email read? Or will email providers be a special case treated differently to adware?
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