The latest news from the National Security Agency that they can monitor the information that one sends through the internet, such as emails, came as a major shock to millions of people. However, a law that was enacted in 1986 states that Federal Agents can read emails that have been stored on a server for at least six months.
However, the government claims that it has a right to access 180-day-old emails without necessarily having a warrant. Under section (b) of this law, the government can request a company that offers electronic communication services information to provide contents of an electronic communication that has been stored in an electronic data storage system, such as a server, for more than 180 days. The Congress, when discussing ECPA, concluded that contents of unopened emails that are stored on behalf of an individual for more than six months or stored after the email is received and opened, should be perceived or treated the same as a business record in the hands of a third party, such as an attorney, human resource manager, or an accountant.
This means that the government security agencies can request records from third parties without breaching the Fifth or Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects all United States Citizens from unreasonable searches. The police are required to get a warrant from the court first before searching your premises. It will come as a surprise to most Americans that the government can actually snoop into their old emails without a warrant.
However, there is a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. In May, Eric Holder, in his testimony against a case filed against the government, said that emails that are 180 days old should not be treated any differently than new emails because advancements in technology has changed how businesses and corporations use electronic communication channels.