Thursday, February 23, 2006

'Big Brother' Watching E-mail, Computer Data

Modern consumers live in an age when web based e-mails pileup on services like Microsoft's Hotmail and Google's Gmail, and all kinds of files from personal photos to bank, medical and travel records are stored online.
Few computer users realise however, that web based e-mail is subject to much weaker protections than messages stored on home computers.
While the government needs a warrant, issued by a judge, to search someone's home computer, it can access a person's webmail account with only a subpoena, issued without judicial review.
In another example, the ubiquitous cellphone makes communication on the move easy -- but it has a downside, in that it can be used theoretically by government agencies to pinpoint an individual's location.
There are no existing laws laying out explicit standards for government location tracking, so official use of such technology is only controlled by an inadequate patchwork of laws and precedents, the report said.

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