I just noticed a case that's interesting after this week's vote in Senate Judiciary that would require police to obtain search warrants for email, etc. (The 2009 opinion is from the western district of Kentucky, U.S. v. Hart.)

Yahoo did require a search warrant for user data less than 180 days, but was fine with a subpoena for email more than 180 days old.

Compare this to Facebook's successful 2009 effort to fend off a government subpoena for user data (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10352587-38.html). Or Google's mostly-successful 2006 effort to curb a government subpoena for user data (http://news.cnet.com/2100-1030_3-6028701.html). There are more recent examples, of course, but those were roughly contemporaneous.

Excerpts follow.


William L. Hart, II, has moved the court to suppress evidence gathered
from his workplace computer and certain electronic communications from
two Yahoo! accounts. In addition to reviewing Mr. Hart's motions
(principally docket nos. 44 and 53) 1 and the responses and replies
thereto, the magistrate judge has reviewed the transcripts of the
evidentiary hearings conducted on April 24, 2009 (docket no. 54) and May
11, 2009 (docket no. 60). After considering the evidence presented, the
arguments of counsel, and being otherwise sufficiently advised, the
magistrate judge recommends that the district court deny Mr. Hart's
suppression requests. The evidence and testimony presented do not
support Mr. Hart's assertions that his workplace computer and the
evidence gathered therefrom, and the electronic communications
associated with two Yahoo! accounts, were obtained in violation of
his constitutional rights...

On December 8, 2006, the police seized Mr. Hart not long after he
parked in front of the Fern Bowl bowling alley. 2 On that day, four
police officers were waiting for the arrival of a suspect matching Mr.
Hart's description. 3 The suspect, using the moniker "jtown9inch" had
been corresponding from his workplace, via the internet, with a person
he believed to be a young girl named Ashley, 4 and had arranged to meet
and photograph her at the Fern Bowl during his lunch hour. 5 The two had
been internet chatting about their relative states of sexual excitement,
and the suspect told "Ashley" he was waiting for his employer to leave
work so that he too could leave. 6 "She" thus was aware that he
was sending her messages from his place of employment. The supposed
young girl was neither young, nor female, however. Ashley was really
Detective Dan Jackman, a member of the Crimes Against Children Unit of
the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, and the lead detective in
this case...

Detective Jackman first filed a request for the Jefferson County
grand jury to issue two subpoenas 40 to Yahoo! Inc., one for "[a]ny and
all records regarding the identification of a user with the
Yahoo! ID 'jtown9inch' or jtown9inch@yahoo.com…" and another for "[a]ny
and all records regarding the identification of a user with the Yahoo!
ID 'trimblecounty9inch' or trimblecounty9inch@yahoo.com…" 41 Detective
Jackman made his requests on December 12, 2006, just four days after Mr.
Hart's arrest, and the subpoenas duces tecum were issued on the same day...

Yahoo! responded on January 5, 2007. 43 Citing 18 U.S.C. §§
2702-2073 (provisions of the Stored Communications Act), Yahoo! did not
provide any emails or other electronic communications associated with
the "jtown9inch" account, but agreed to preserve any emails that might
exist for ninety days, should the police choose to obtain a search
warrant. 44 With respect to the "trimblecounty9inch" account, however,
Yahoo! provided a disc that contained "a snapshot of the e-mail
communications" older than 180 days (it interpreted the terms of the
Stored Communications Act to permit disclosure of emails older than 180
days prior to the date of its response) and a disc containing the
"Yahoo! Photos content" from the "trimblecounty9inch" account as it
existed on January 5, 2007. 

Yahoo! also provided certain non-communication subscriber identity
records pertaining to both accounts, including (among other information)
the date the accounts were created (October 13, 2006, for "jtown9inch"
and November 29, 2005, for "trimblecounty9inch") and the Registration IP
Addresses of the computers used when the accounts were created
( for "jtown9inch" and for
"trimblecounty9inch"). 46 In addition, Yahoo! also provided limited
login tracker data for each account, which indicated only that
"trimblecounty9inch" last logged in on December 6, 2006, at 21:13 GMT
(which would have been 4:13 p.m. Eastern Time at that time of year),
from a computer later determined to be Mr. Hart's workplace computer
(i.e., the computer with IP Address and that "jtown9inch"
last logged in from the same computer on December 8, 2006, at 17:12 GMT
(12:12 p.m. Eastern Time), which was not long before Mr. Hart was

13) Registration IP Addresses are unique numerical addresses
assigned in groups to particular internet service providers, who then
assign them to individual computers using their service. 48 Every
computer with internet access therefore has a unique IP address. 49 The
group assignments are recorded in a registry available to law
enforcement, but the specific assignments are not. 50 Investigators can
determine which service provider assigned a particular number by
determining which provider was assigned a range within which that
particular number falls, but they must then subpoena or serve a warrant
on the provider for additional information. 51 That is exactly what
Detective Jackman did after he received the response from Yahoo! He
determined that the Registration IP Address of the computer at which the
"jtown9inch" Yahoo! account was created originally was within a range of
numbers issued to Bell South Telecommunications, Inc., and the the
Registration IP Address of the computer at which the
"trimblecounty9inch" Yahoo! account was created originally was within a
range of numbers issued to SouthEast Telephone.

On February 5, 2007, Detective Jackman filed two additional requests
for the Jefferson County Grand Jury to issue subpoenas. 53 On February
6, 2007, the Grand Jury issued two subpoenas duces tecum pursuant to
those requests. 54 One subpoena was issued to SouthEast Telephone for
"[a]ny and all subscriber information for the IP address"
on November 29, 2005. 55 The other was issued to Bell South for "[a]ny
and all subscriber information for the IP address" on
October 13, 2006.

SouthEast responded ten days later, saying only that it did not keep
IP Address records dated prior to May 2006. 57 Accordingly, Detective
Jackman was not able to locate the computer at which
"trimblecounty9inch" was created. Bell South, however, had previously
responded on February 7, 2007, that IP address was within a
range of numbers assigned to computers owned by the business Saturn
Distributing, at 10900 Plantside Drive in Louisville, Kentucky. 58 The
contact name for the business was listed as Dwayne Hay.
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