There have been several promising signs that Fourth Amendment protections are catching up to e-mail communications. Under current federal law, e-mail messages that are 180 days old or less and unopened are subject to a warrant for law enforcement to access them. Older e-mails and those that have been opened can be sought through court orders or subpoenas, which are subject to a much lower standard.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D – CA, and others in Congress are pushing an overhaul of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act that will include a warrant requirement for all e-mails held by service providers. Senators Mike Lee, R – UT, and Patrick Leahy, D – VT, have introduced similar bills in the senate.
California State Senator Mark Leno introduced legislation that would require state law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing data from communication services such as Gmail, Outlook, Facebook and Twitter.
Lastly, the Department of Justice has dropped its opposition to the proposed updates to federal laws. Read more about email privacy here.