Restoring privacy rights online

Because the law hasn’t kept up with technology, you have fewer privacy rights for data you store in the cloud than you do for what’s on your computer’s hard drive. Now the New York Times reports that a coalition of privacy groups and companies is seeking to close that loophole.

Here’s the problem. Let’s say you do e-mail the old-fashioned way, downloading all of your mail to your personal computer and storing it there. If a government investigator wants to take a look, he or she first must obtain a search warrant from a judge.

But if you use Gmail or another cloud-based e-mail system, a prosecutor need only serve a subpoena on the company that hosts your account — no judge necessary.

The Center for Democracy and Technology, a lead player in the effort to reform the law, explains all this and more.