E-mail and privacy rights are in the news as Congress considers updating a 26 year-old law. That law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, allows government investigators to access and use all online documents that are older than 180 days. The law is a remnant of a world before the rise of e-mail and many defense advocates believe it is in desperate need of a refresh.
A lot has changed in 26 years. The rapid expansion of e-mail as a primary form of communication is one of the biggest developments since Congress enacted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in 1986. When Congress drafted that bill, it could not have envisioned that people would store private messages on the Internet - as a result, the law is now problematic in the real world.