The 180 Day Email Rule

Emails that are older than 180 days are considered abandoned and that makes them subject to search without a warrant.

Have you heard of the 1986 Electronic Communications Act? Probably not.

The law was passed by Congress many years before the vast majority of people were online. The main take out from the legislation is this:

Emails that are older than 180 days are considered abandoned and that makes them subject to search without a warrant. 

That’s a little intrusive. And a totally ridiculous definition of abandoned. A secret 181 days ago is still a secret today. A private matter 181 days ago is still a private matter today.

The process for one of the alphabet agencies to access your “abandoned” emails is that they need only ask your Internet service provider for the messages.

A bill seeking to extend Fourth Amendment privacy protections for personal papers to digital files and repeal the 1986 law has repeatedly failed to make progress since being proposed in 2012.

See more on the debate here from Philip Wegmann the congressional correspondent for The Daily Signal.