The IRS, Email Privacy And the Legislative Answer

May 8, 2013  |  New York Law Journal

Pursuant to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, the government can obtain emails and electronic data stored by third parties like Google, Yahoo! and Facebook. Given the dramatic changes in the way people use technology over the past 27 years, Congress is presently drafting legislation aimed at bringing the rules regulating the government's access to electronic communications into the 21st century. As discussed in this article, this effort is likely to get a boost from publicity surrounding the recent release of internal IRS documents describing the agency's policies regarding how it obtains emails, text messages and other private electronic communications. While the IRS's historical practices appear to have been consistent with those applied by other law enforcement agencies, the public response to the IRS's documents and recent federal court decisions addressing the protection to be accorded emails demonstrate the need for legislative action.

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