In light of the recent ruling that there’s no expectation of privacy in information transmitted over a wireless router, many people may be wondering how other online information is treated under the law. Techdirt recently posted a link to a useful Pro Publica guide to digital data and accessibility by law enforcement.*
This guide discusses popular digital data types, such as phone records, cell phone location information, IP addresses, emails and text messages. Obtaining IP address information has been a key aspect in many of the recent BitTorrent lawsuits.
As the guide explains, many of these types of information can be collected by law enforcement with only a subpoena, rather than a warrant. The standard for granting a subpoena is lower than that required to get a warrant, thus making the information easier for law enforcement to access. To obtain a warrant, the police must show that they have probable cause to search or seize evidence. A hunch that evidence may be found is not enough—the police have to establish that evidence of a crime will probably be found. By contrast, a subpoena requires only a reasonable probability that the materials sought will produce information that is relevant to the general investigation.
A subpoena is a legal document that generally requires the recipient to turn over the information specified at a future date, which is also specified in the document. The recipient may be directed to provide information about himself or about third persons, such as when ISPs receive subpoenas directing them to turn over subscriber information. If you receive a subpoena from your ISP, it is a good idea to contact an attorney to discuss your options.
*We provide these links for general informational purposes only. We make no claims about whether the guide’s contents are legally correct, or suitable for your particular circumstances. Neither the guide linked to nor the contents of this blog are legal advice. You should obtain legal advice from a licensed attorney regarding your own unique circumstances.
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