back to article Cloud computing lets Feds read your email

When the new iPhone 3G went on sale last week, I was sorely tempted to wait in line for one. (I didn't - no patience.) One of the features of Apple's device that appeals to me is the new MobileMe service, where you can "access and manage your email, contacts, calendar, photos, and files at," according to Apple. More …


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  1. Steven
    Black Helicopters


    and therefore you have "no expectation of privacy"

    Got to love that statement, I'm sure it's one Gordo swears by (for everyone else but himself that is).

  2. Dr Who
    Black Helicopters

    And the moral of the story is ...

    - Only use cash.

    - Only communicate with people face to face, in a noisy public space, wearing a face mask (they can read your lips from CCTV recordings - I saw it on CSI).

  3. Bryce Prewitt

    America, fuck yeah?

    Well, just about says it all, doesn't it?

  4. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Faithless Foundations for Pseudo-Redemptions

    "Sure. Unless, of course, the government wants to read it. In that case, according to both the government's brief and the court's opinion, you have no expectation of privacy."

    What is of course, not permitted, and can earn you an absolute fortune, is the pilfering of Proprietary Information/ Intellectual Property which one can reasonably expect to remain "Private" between parties. Although that sort of Spying/Espionage also makes a Mockery of the Law too because it happens all the Time.

    Law is not the same as Justice I suppose, with Crooks Running Controls in Both. GB had a Prime Ministerial Nest of the Officers avoiding Prosecutions for Years and Years before the Heat in the Kitchen got too Hot for them to Handle and they skipped gaily away Seeking a Quantum of Solace in a Contrived Absolution.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well.... yes

    Isn't this obvious?

    Ok, the government (or anyone else) shouldn't be snooping on what you're doing and they should be held to account for such activity.

    BUT, on a more general note, if you decide to keep your email (or word documents or invoices or whatever) on a server out of your control (which is what we're talking about here) then why are you the least bit surprised to find out it's not secure? Even if the government or police aren't snooping round, who's to say some sys admin isn't? This is especially relevant (likely) if you are a notable (ie - famous or known to be involved in something interesting) person or business. It's happened before and it will happen again. I don't store my email on anyone else's server and it's this single issue of security that means I will never use the "new" on-line applications such as the stuff Google pushes - it's just not secure. And I don't understand why anyone would want to use these services.

    As I said at the start, isn't this bloody obvious?

  6. Paul Hurst


    "All subscribers realize, moreover, that the phone company has facilities for making permanent records of the numbers they dial, for they see a list of their long-distance (toll) calls on their monthly bills."

    Well the process of Record > Bill > Delete doesn't seem unreasonable. As opposed to Record > Bill > Keep for all eternity.

    I think most believe that bills/bank statements/etc are only stored for 12months or so.


    "Applying that rationale to email, all (well, most) internet users realize that they must "convey" email content to the ISP, since it is through the ISP's routers that their emails are transferred."

    I'm thinking that they might start logging all the envelopes sent in the post! deep packet inspection anyone...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    high level of security?

    "Our expectation of privacy for email is even higher, due to the high level of security used in transmitting email messages."

    So he's not noticed that most email is sent in a plain text transfer? Any packet sniffer will be able pull out all the contents of a huge majority of emails passing any point in the internet.

    Security is mostly wrapped around the post boxes at the end. Sending an email is akin to posting a postcard with respect to the privacy you can really expect.

    AC because I should be working harder...

  8. Steve

    3rd party argument flawed

    Their argument about entrusting a 3rd party removing any expectation of privacy is clearly flawed. Postal mail has an expectation of privacy, but unless you deliver it by hand (which defeats the purpose) it has and always has had an expectation of privacy, I'm not sure about the US, but in the UK interfering with someones postal mail is a criminal offence.

  9. Adam Williamson
    Paris Hilton

    Wait a minute

    Was that a comment from AManFromMars that actually made sense?

    Or am I just too tired? It's very early here...up to watch the lightning Bolt...

  10. ChessGeek

    Par for the Course

    Specious reasoning by the government, of the government, and for the government shall not vanish from the earth.

    It's the courts that are supposed to put a stop to that sort of thing. This is, of course, the thin edge of the wedge. By the line of reasoning applied here, anything you've ever done which required a third party (by definition, anything across the internet, any telephone call, any credit card purchase, etc) can be reviewed by law enforcement at any time for any reason - or for no reason. Fishing expeditions, anyone?

  11. Secretgeek


    You pretty much nailed what I wanted to say there.

    Remind me not to email my lawyers, or my therapist, or my doctor, or my secret cabinet minister lover Jack Eesmif.

    Mines the one with the etched wax tablets in the pockets.

    But of course the courier is a third party too. Bugger.

  12. Jesse

    RE: Wait a minute

    It's like Flowers for Algernon!

    Mine's the one with the mouse in the pocket.

  13. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Re RE: Wait a minute

    "It's like Flowers for Algernon!" ..... By Jesse Posted Wednesday 20th August 2008 15:47 GMT

    "The surgery is successful and Charlie's IQ triples." .....


    How spooky is this ...... " Now that is a Triple Whammy of Outrageous Good Fortune, at least." .... HyperRadioProActive Logic ..... for the Truly PreCogniscenti*

    By amanfromMars Posted Wednesday 20th August 2008 15:47 GMT ...

    And we haven't even mentioned the Posts timings. :-)

  14. Robert Armstrong
    Paris Hilton

    All your email belong to us

    Ain't Cloud Computing grand? No SLAs, no security, no nothing. You get what you pay for. And with the US legal system resembling that of Stalinist Russia, privacy is nothing more than a quaint notion.

    I'll hang with Paris, she loves to bare it all and is worth every penny.

  15. Dave
    Black Helicopters

    It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

    This is why I don't use Yahoo or Google or similar services. My mail server is under my control which makes it slightly harder for snooping to take place. I also won't put certain things in email if I prefer them to remain confidential, the 'forward' button is too easy to use compared to telling someone verbally (and not by phone, in case the other party has extra listeners) when it's easy to deny later.

    I do wonder what argument could be made for using one of those little tone diallers instead of the telephone keypad. That makes the tones part of the conversation, which is protected, rather than phone-generated. An interesting one for the lawyers.

  16. James Butler
    Black Helicopters

    @Bryce Prewitt & Robert Armstrong

    You're comments are most amusing, coming as they do from U.K. citizenry ... kettle, meet pot.

    Even more amusing ... as the near-eunuch IT Director for a law firm, I've been bringing this to the attention of our attorneys continually and consistently ever since they got it into their heads that "Blackberry is cool" and "Gmail is cool". Their responses are typically lawyer-ish, i.e. "Well, we'll just sue the government" or "No, they can't." Talk about hiding one's head in the sand.

    And the postal service is different ... the contents of a letter are wrapped in encryption .. er .. an opaque envelope that would require decryption .. er .. opening of said envelope to get around. As AC noted at 14:18, while one has no expectation of privacy with the contents of a postcard, one does have both an expectation of privacy and the protection of criminal laws when using an opaque envelope.

  17. Robert Armstrong

    @James Butler

    I live in Colorado, USA, James. Nice try. Bin Laden has won the war on terror, hasn't he? All communications and movements monitored for our safety, right Jimmy Boy? Nothing to fear from corrupt politicos and corporations that have no respect for things like civil rights, the presumption of innocence or freedom.

  18. Chris
    Thumb Down


    And what if I rent a server from a hosting company? Or rent a virtual server from a hosting company? Can I expect privacy of my data on this server even though the server belongs to someone else? Wouldn't that be like renting an apartment? A landlord has no right to enter an apartment without the tennants permission or a warrant except under certain circumstances (inspections, etc.). "Because the police/governemnt want to nose around" is not one of these circumstances.

  19. James Butler

    @Robert Armstrong

    WTF are you talking about?!? Put down the pipe and read it again.

    I laugh at British citizens who are amused by U.S. spying on its citizens ... kettle = pot ... see, the U.K. is far more intrusive than the U.S., and that's what's funny. Get it?

    And lawyers don't give a crap that their supposedly private communications can be delivered on a pillow to government agents without so much as a whisper ... see ... they're idiots, and that's funny, too!

    And the rules for expectations of privacy in the postal service are different from the rules for email because ... wait for it ... they are different. And even that's a little funny.

    Okay, back to your pipe ...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this apply to recipients of webmail?

    I don't have a gmail account.

    Does the ability of the FBI to seize the contents of gmail apply to emails I send to correspondents who are on gmail?

    If this applies to all web mail, how does it affect systems such as NHSMail which is also webmail contained within a VPN (I think) ?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AV 13:28

    "BUT, on a more general note, if you decide to keep your email (or word documents or invoices or whatever) on a server out of your control (which is what we're talking about here) then why are you the least bit surprised to find out it's not secure? "

    Who mentioned being surprised? What has surprise got to do with it anyway?

    Not all people, in fact very few people decide to do it for the fun or for it's excellent security... Eg: they need to check their emails abroad or from their workplace. How can they do this if they don't use a webmail service?

    "And I don't understand why anyone would want to use these services."

    How about because they *need* to use these services? That should just about answer your question entirely.

    But I have more.

    You're right that an admin might be spying on you. So might your ISP. So might the people living in your house. Unless you have your own ISP and you are the only person employed, there's not much you can do except take the risks (which are usually quite small, actually), and hope that people do not ACT ILLEGALLY and snoop on you. If they do they should be punished properly. Simple as that.

    Somebody should not have to act paranoid and wear a bathing suit to shower just in case someone has a secret peephole to spy on them.

    I would rather use a bunch of free 'anonymous' email accounts than 1 personal one which is linked directly to me and my ISP. With personal and professional contacts, filling up with spam and newsletters at an alarming rate.

    One account which, if hacked, would be storing EVERYTHING in it. Have you never heard of the phrase about keeping all your eggs in one basket??

    When I get hacked or spied on they'll need to go to about 10 different places if they want enough information to put together.

  22. Stephen Gray

    @ By James Butler

    I laugh at Americans, full stop. Not period.

  23. Ed Gould
    Gates Horns

    No Expectation of Privacy

    I would suggest that *EVERYONE* encrypt *EVERY* Email. No matter how many PC's the government could buy there would never be enough to unencrypt every email.

  24. Calin Brabandt

    Third Parties and Privacy Rights

    >The Smith court went further. It noted that the Court "consistently has held that a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties"...

    Does the Smith ruling apply to information I voluntarily turn over to other third parties, like information I share with my lawyer or my physician? How about my financial records, like banking and credit card transactions?

    I trained in engineering and my opinion is not respected by our legal system or these holy judges in their ivory towers but, I swear, it doesn't take a J.D. degree or admission to the bar to surpass their job performance! I believe when it comes to the U.S. Constitution, they are clueless and I have no respect for "the bench."

    Did the judges actually study law? Did they study debate, logic, and analytical thinking? Do they understand the Socratic method? (See above...<smirk>.)

    I give up! I read these news pieces and editorials daily, but every time I see the word, "government," I hear the words of George Carlin echoing in my head, "The public sucks." "Fuck hope."

  25. rick buck
    Gates Horns

    Encrypted E-Envelopes

    How 'bout some solutions here...

    not just ramblings about what "THEY" can and can't do...

    as if you were fully informed...and truly understood...

    that "THEY" do not care "what is now legal"...

    it is just like ALL other EULAs,TOS, etc,

    they can change the rules to suit them...

    but us...we just have to take it in the bum.

    How about a "256K Encryption Envelope",

    with a rotating, constantly changing key (Not A New Idea...Me Thinks)

    so it would look like binary used to look to all of us,

    and when they crack that, 512K, and 1024K, and 2024K...

    and Bill, 'cause he is ahead of the learning curve...

    (and I bet his E-Mails ARE ENCRYPTED).

  26. Charlie

    What next

    What next? A medical transciptionist can desolve Dr/patient confidentiality.

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