Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents do not need warrants to read people’s emails, text messages and other private electronic communications according to agency documents obtained by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The IRS 2009 handbook stated that the 4th Amendment does not protect emails because Internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 states that government officials can read emails after issuing a subpoena without a judge’s approval.
However, in a 2010 case U.S. vs Warshak, a federal appeals court ruled that police violated a man’s constitutional rights when they read his emails without a warrant.
Subsequent updates to the IRS handbook did not incorporate the Warshak ruling. In fact, in 2011 an IRS attorney wrote a memo stating that the Warshak decision only applies to the staes within the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.
For more information, see:
IRS claims it can read emails without a warrant
Judge Napolitano on IRS snooping without a warrant