Kindling what appeared to be a quiet fight for privacy, CNET reports that the U.S. Department of Justice issued a broad request for Yahoo to divulge emails to the court. The official query was actually issued in December 2009; however, Yahoo is still diligently appealing the request before a federal judge. The new, interesting bit though is the formation of a peculiar partnership: Google has teamed up with Yahoo to help them make their case.
Actually, Google isn't alone either. They have also combined forces with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, TRUSTe and others who aim to ward off prosecutorial requests insistent upon revealing emails. Perhaps not so coincidentally, a number of the organizations involved also happen to be members of the Digital Due Process Coalition, a group dedicated to improving digital privacy laws and practices.
Yahoo's camp argues that people have the reasonable expectation of privacy where electronic mail is concerned. Because of this expectation, they suggest a warrant should be absolutely required to hand over personal emails -- a point the Digital Due Process Coalition has been driving home for some time now. Their explanation is that warrantless email seizure is a form of unreasonable search, thought to be prohibited by the Bill of Rights' fourth amendment.
Another notable point made is that the laws which govern digital privacy do not necessarily address the technology of today. A loophole in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 is cited as an example, which potentially allows government agencies legal access to otherwise private data stored on remote servers. Email, in fact, is a prime example.