What right should government have to read your e-mail?

Law enforcement officials are seeking new rules to make it easier for them to tap e-mail accounts the way they do phones. Today’s Question: What right should government have to read your e-mail?

  • Al

    None, other than through a court order following the same process required for regular mail.

  • Sarah

    They have no right unless they have a warrant to search mail, computer, etc.

  • Steve

    They should have the same rights as they do to tap phones. There is no reason why the standard should be any different, if police have probable cause to think I am breaking a law and a judge agrees to issue a warrant, there are the same safeguards in place as for phones, which has been done for years and years. This strikes the proper balance between protecting my privacy and protecting all our safety by catching criminals.

  • Peter T

    Steve: “They should have the same rights as they do to tap phones.” I agree. Without a search warrent by a judge, it should be illegal.

  • James
  • midas

    I agree with the sentiment expressed by others: apply the same standards as are used for phone taps.

    I’m also wondering now if there’s a Godwin’s Law corollary for “Big Brother” and/or _Nineteen-Eighty-Four_.

  • Reuben Koutal

    As long as the government is Elected by the people, and strives for the people’s wellfare, the same right that My Wife has towards me, in reading e-mails, or otherwise, of me, or my Best Friend has for that Matter. I did notice that I had entered this text under another ‘today’s Question’, ‘Should Minnesota’s Wolves be removed from Protection as Endengared Species’.

  • Steve the Cynic

    The security of an email message is about the same as that of a postcard. Any competent hacker can get access to just about anything that’s not strongly encrypted. Given that reality, does it really make sense to cut law enforcement off from information the “bad guys” already have?

  • bsimon

    Government doesn’t have a right to read my email. Instead, I have a right to a reasonable expectation of privacy & freedom from unreasonable search & seizure. In balance, government has an obligation to ensure the safety of the population from attack. To further that end, the government must have probable cause to search/surveil my communications.

    The larger point bears repeating: Government doesn’t have rights. Government does have obligations & has been granted privileges in order to fulfill those obligations.

  • Curt C.

    This is the wrong question to ask. Since the President and the U.S. security establishment broke the F.I.S.A. law under Bush and no one ever went to jail for it, the question should be what access to our e-mails will law enforcement take regardless of what we want?

  • Ron

    Simply, the internet differs from the telephone in that the government created and owns the internet. Just as a Employer can legally monitor you on their networks, the government can also on it’s. The best bet for security is with encryption. The Government is harder pressed to justify breaking into encrypted messages.

    Don’t be naive, the government has gone through your mail, listened to your phone calls, and has extensive records on you. It is what they do. Welcome to the wonders of computers and advanced forms of communications. Live a clean life and you have little to worry about.

  • Kevin VC


    Innocent until proven guilty.

    But a active investigation with quantifiable cause or a direct trail can be a viable source to approach a Judge to get a warrant.

    BUT until that happens none.

    Abuse of a big brother entity is and continues to be a problem both for civil liberties and public peace. The FBI has a rich history of abusing the right to wire tap or arbitrarily listen in on communications. And often it was not for a crime but a political bend or goal.

    There are already software out there that recognizes patterns or key words that can draw the attention of authorities to any one set or group of people communicating. And its done without ‘input’ by the government. That alone rides a razors edge of abuse of power. But it also serves to catch communications that would hint to danger to the public.

    No one wants to or intends to abuse power, it just happens. Especially when you think your way is the right way and that goes unchallenged…

    We need the right to challenge said abuses.

  • C F

    The government should have every right to read my mail, “E” or other wise… As long as I live in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Communist China, the USSR, Nazi Germany.. you get the idea.

  • Pete

    Email should have at least as much protection as the US Postal service mail gets.