Wiretap ruling could signal end of e-mail privacy

Friday, 2 July 2004, 7:18 PM EST

A federal appeals court ruling this week has put a spotlight on the increasingly public nature of e-mail messages and has unraveled expectations that e-mail would gain the same privacy protections as traditional communications.

The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that protections under the federal Wiretap Act do not extend to e-mail messages stored on an e-mail provider's computer systems.

"The fact is that there is now an emerging line of precedent in the courts that people should not expect privacy in their e-mail, for the most part," said Mark Plotkin, a partner at law firm Covington & Burling, in Washington, D.C.

By Matt Hicks at eWeek.

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