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Legal protection for e-mail and other internet communications?

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  • Legal protection for e-mail and other internet communications?

    I just glanced over this story from the BBC.

    http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pag...as/7622726.stm

    Hackers infiltrate Palin's e-mail

    Hackers have broken in to the e-mail of the US Republican vice-presidential candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

    The hackers, who targeted a personal Yahoo account, posted several messages and family photos from her inbox.

    The campaign of running mate John McCain condemned their action as "a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of the law".

    The hacking comes amid questions about whether Mrs Palin used personal e-mail to conduct state business.

    According to law, all e-mails relating to the official business of government must be archived and not destroyed. However, personal e-mails can be deleted.

    Mrs Palin is currently under investigation in Alaska for alleged abuse of power while governor.

    'Destroy them'

    A group called Anonymous has claimed responsibility for the hacking of Mrs Palin's Yahoo e-mail.

    It posted five screenshots, two digital photos of Mrs Palin's family and an address book to the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website. The information was taken from Ms Palin's [email protected] e-mail account.

    One message exposed is apparently an exchange between Mrs Palin and the deputy governor of Alaska, Sean Parnell, who is seeking election to Congress.

    Another is between Mrs Palin and friend Amy McCorkell, in which the latter says she is praying for the governor and adds: "Don't let the negative press get you down!"

    The family photographs of the Palins posted on Wikileaks are thought not previously to have been in the public domain.

    "The matter has been turned over the the appropriate authorities and we hope that anyone in possession of these e-mails will destroy them," the McCain campaign said in a statement.

    Subsequent investigation has shown that the [email protected] account has been shut down along with another, [email protected], also owned by Mrs Palin.

    It is not clear yet what methods the hacking group used to access to the e-mail account. The screenshots posted by the hackers reveal that they carried out the attack via a so-called proxy service to hide their tracks and limit the chance that they would be traced.

    Earlier in 2008 the Anonymous group launched several online assaults against the Church of Scientology.

    Mrs Palin has been on the campaign trail for Mr McCain this week, appearing at events in Colorado, Ohio and Michigan. The pair are due to hold an airport rally in Iowa on Thursday.
    Story from BBC NEWS:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/h...as/7622726.stm

    Published: 2008/09/18 10:55:42 GMT

    © BBC MMVIII

    Now politics aside, our snail mail is protected by the federal law. Mail fraud, mail tampering and mail theft are all federal crimes. You steal your neighbor's subscription to Teen magazine and you'll probably get a slap on the write, you break into a post office box, you're going to prison (I'm making generalizations, I'm not a postal inspector or federal prosecutor). But if you hack into someone's email account, what are the legal implications? How does it compare to mail physically carried by the USPS?

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