Tech Industry

Lawmakers look to curb e-mail eavesdropping

Members of House of Representatives hope to prevent repeat of court decision acquitting man accused of e-mail interception.

Four members of the U.S. House of Representatives are hoping to prevent a repeat of a recent court decision acquitting a man accused of e-mail interception. In that case, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Bradford Councilman, a former executive for an online bookseller, did not violate federal wiretap laws by allegedly snooping on e-mail that sent to customers through accounts Councilman provided.

Banning that behavior is necessary "to modernize America's privacy laws," said Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., who is cosponsoring the measure with Roscoe Bartlett, R-Mass., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and William Delahunt, D-Mass. Their E-Mail Privacy Act, introduced Friday, would alter current laws to outlaw that form of e-mail eavesdropping. Their bill says Internet providers could intercept e-mail only "to the extent the access is a necessary incident to the rendition of the service, the protection of the rights or property of the provider of that service" or to honor a government request.