The IRS Says They Can Read Your Email
At this Tax Day Conference I’d like to bring to your attention a disturbing revelation about the practices of the Internal revenue service
Not only are they perusing your income, but they could be checking your email too. If you should ever end up the target of an IRS investigation their policy is to check your email without your knowledge.
According to internal agency documents the IRS claims that agents do not need a warrant to read people’s emails, text messages and other private documents, simply because they are stored with a third party service provider
Our Digital4th Coalition partner, the American Civil Liberties Union, recently exposed these practices through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Under EPCA the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, again that’s 1986, government officials only need a subpoena – meaning a judge has never seen this request – to read emails that have been opened or are more than 180 days old.
The only email I have under 180 days old and unopened is spam, so warrant requirement for spam not for your actual personal emails stored in gmail for the past few years.
EPCA’s time restraints though are not the philosophical reason for the IRS thinking it can raid you email.
The ACLU found that the IRS maintains a belief that the Fourth Amendment does not protect emails because Internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.
In response to Chairman Boustany’s pointed letter, the IRS may have said they don’t target people’s email or social network information, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reading your email and it doesn’t solve the philosophical problem that the IRS doesn’t believe American citizen’s have Fourth Amendment rights online.
In the year 2013 all internet users have the expectation that their email communications are private and should not be opened by the government just like letters handled by the postal service.
The Digital4th coalition is a partnership between Americans for Tax Reform, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and Heritage Action for America. We advocate for Fourth Amendment protections for Americans digital documents, including emails and documents stored in the cloud.
Before you do your taxes next year, the IRS should formally amend its policies to require its agents to obtain warrants when the want to read your email.