Using a law passed before the birth of the Internet, the U.S. government has obtained a controversial court order to force Google and a small Internet provider, Sonic.net, to hand over information regarding a WikiLeaks volunteer, reports the Wall Street Journal.
The WikiLeaks volunteer was identified as Jacob Applebaum, and the government’s request included the email addresses of people Applebaum had corresponded with in the last two years, but not the full emails, the Journal reported. Both Google and the Internet service provider, Sonic.net Inc., pressed for the right to inform Applebaum, 28, who has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing, the Journal reported.
“The court clashes in the WikiLeaks case provide a rare public window into the growing debate over a federal law that lets the government secretly obtain information from people’s email and cellphones without a search warrant,” the Journal wrote.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed in 1986, three years before the Internet existed, has bumped up against a coalition of tech companies-including Google, Microsoft Corp. and AT&T, which have pushed to update the law in to conform to standards of the Internet age.
They’d like to see the law require search warrants in digital investigations.
“The law was designed to give the same protections to electronic communications that were already in place for phone calls and regular mail,” reports the Journal, “but it didn’t envision a time when cellphones transmitted locations and people stored important documents on remote services, such as Gmail, rather than on their own computers.”
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