Identity Theft Speech: Email Privacy

I just returned from doing an identity theft speech for the Department of Defense, and after the speech, a woman asked me a great question broader than just identity theft:

Do users of personal (not job related) email have a right to expect privacy? Does an email communication constitute a form of publication?

Email Privacy

Unless you own the servers that the mail is being processed on and transferred to, you have no right to expect privacy. For example, let’s say you sent a personal email to me. When it left your home, it went to your Internet Service Provider (Qwest, Comcast, Verizon, etc.). They now have a copy of the email that they consider to be their property (more or less).

The government can subpoena this email from them without your even knowing it (and by the way, you signed an agreement with them when you signed up for service that you agreed to this). They then send the email through a series of technology jumps (routers) to my ISP. During that transmission, technically speaking, the email could be intercepted and read. Eventually, after a micro-second, it lands on the servers at my service provider. The email can then be subpoenaed from them as well.

Practically speaking, your emails are probably not being intercepted and read. Technically speaking, it’s easy to do. The answer? Encrypt your emails. And that is an entirely different subject that I will address in an upcoming post.

As to your question about email being a form of publication – I wouldn’t go that far, as there are fewer people who have access to it than would a publication. That said, I’ve seen many emails that show up in publication. If you follow ABC’s The Bachelorette, you probably saw all of Ed’s “secret” emails (and text messages) to women other than his fiancee, Jillian. So are emails really confidential? Only if someone doesn’t want to find out more about you.

John Sileo delivers identity theft speeches around the world. His recent clients include the Pentagon and the Department of Defense, Pfizer, Lincoln Financial Group, the Federal Reserve Bank of NY and the FDIC. To bring John in for an identity theft speech, contact him directly on 1.800.258.8076.

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