Despite recent setbacks, the FBI is still trying to expand its power to access citizens’ communications. This time, it wants to read your emails.
Not long ago, the FBI dropped its suit against Apple. The intelligence agency was demanding that Apple devise a backdoor into an iPhone—had the FBI won, it could have set a precedent that would impact both your privacy and your phone’s security.
Now, the FBI wants easier access to your emails.
Congress is currently trying to close a loophole which grants the government access to your emails with only a subpoena, instead of a warrant. Requiring a warrant instead of a subpoena would help protect citizen’s privacy by raising the barriers for law enforcement to read your communications.
The FBI, meanwhile, wants to be able to read your emails without any court order at all. They’d like to get access to your email through National Security Letters instead.
These letters, authorized under the Patriot Act, permit the government not only to force communications companies to turn over you information, but also to legally gag those companies from disclosing when they receive such a letter.
Because of these gag orders, companies have started to use “warrant canaries.” These are messages from companies which state that they have not received such orders. When the warrant canary is taken down, users will know that the company was forced to turn over information to law enforcement.
Even with warrant canaries, however, you may never know if the government is looking at your personal communications. Instead of making it harder for the government to invade your privacy, the FBI is trying to make it easier to read your emails without your knowledge.