It’s true. The government can LEGALLY read your emails over six months old.
Thanks to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure only applies to private electronic messages under 180 days old.
The pre-digital era language of the Act, known in the trade as the “180-day rule,” apparently gives government officials the power to consider emails, text messages and documents stored on remote servers (the cloud) as “abandoned.” Just as law enforcement can gather your DNA or fingerprints from a discarded coffee cup without a warrant, they are legally not obliged to to get a subpoena for your old emails.
Any understanding of the Fourth Amendment must consider this a breach of due process. The language must be brought up to date before the Government snoops set the IRS, FBI or local police on us. Who knows what we’ve incriminated ourselves with in a casual, private email?
Our privacy rights are being violated. Thankfully this seems to be a bipartisan concern in both the House and Senate and moves are afoot to correct the matter. In the meantime – purge your webmail! And call your Representatives.