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Email and the US Patriot Act...

dawks

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,071
2
81
I work for a health care provider in Canada, and we are looking at some email options. One I have considered is "Google Apps for your domain". In that case we'd probably use IMAP and keep all of our mail on the Google servers (which are of course in the US, not Canada)

My big concern over this is that I have been lead to believe that with the Patriot Act, the US government has very powerful authority to handle email anyway it sees fit. Is this true? Or as long as we behave normally, we shouldnt have any concerns? Does the government need to go through a judge to look at peoples email? Are they required to contact us before/during/after snooping our email?

Thanks
 

Fern

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 30, 2003
26,907
173
106
I can only tell you what little or know (or think I do):

If it's foreign-to-foreign the gov can snoop. It's always been that way.

I believe the recent activity was keeping that option even though the servers are in teh USA.

There are FISA court judges who oversee this. Some argue the extent of their oversight, but their rulings are not generally public so I'm not sure we really know.

No, IDK think you get any notification.

Healthcare info is affored much higher respect/privacy that most all other. IDK if this applies to foreign info though.

IDK if Canada and the US have any "understandings" or treaties about this either.

I'd suggest that your company's attorney contact Google's attorneys fopr their policy and understanding of the laws.

Fern
 

fskimospy

Elite Member
Mar 10, 2006
72,160
22,762
136
Originally posted by: dawks
I work for a health care provider in Canada, and we are looking at some email options. One I have considered is "Google Apps for your domain". In that case we'd probably use IMAP and keep all of our mail on the Google servers (which are of course in the US, not Canada)

My big concern over this is that I have been lead to believe that with the Patriot Act, the US government has very powerful authority to handle email anyway it sees fit. Is this true? Or as long as we behave normally, we shouldnt have any concerns? Does the government need to go through a judge to look at peoples email? Are they required to contact us before/during/after snooping our email?

Thanks
My basic understanding is that the bar the government must get over in order to read your email is pretty pathetically low. The argument is (however stupid) that because you are allowing a third party to hold your email (in this case google), you don't have an expectation of privacy anymore.

They definitely are not required to notify you in a whole lot of cases if they are snooping in your email though, no.
 

Rainsford

Lifer
Apr 25, 2001
17,515
0
0
If I was running a company that dealt with sensitive customer information, I wouldn't host any of that data in a foreign country unless they had significantly improved data protection laws and they specifically applied them to foreigners. A Canadian health care company dealing with (presumably) Canadian clients is not going to enjoy the same kind of personal privacy protection in another country than it would in Canada. In the case of the US, various government officials have openly said that American intelligence agencies collect, without warrants, communications between foreigners that happen to travel across US owned equipment. I believe this violates the spirit of the FISA law, however, that has yet to be ruled on by a court. As of right now, I believe you would enjoy significantly less privacy using a US based company rather than a Canadian one.

While I believe the US is somewhat less friendly towards data privacy than most western nations (with the possible exception of the UK), I don't believe this is a unique situation either. Citizens or legal residents almost always enjoy stronger legal protection than foreigners in most countries. If you're concerned about the privacy of your customers' data, I think you'd be safer with a Canadian service provider.

However, for something as important as a health care company, I wouldn't take my (or anyone else on the Internet) word for it...consult a lawyer in Canada, and the US, and talk with Google if at all possible. Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but all I can say is that I think the laws in the US go too far in dealing with US citizens...I don't think you'll find our legal treatment of foreigners to be what you're looking for. Particularly when the alternative is a Canadian company when Canada regularly outscores the US when it comes to data privacy.
 

Kntx

Platinum Member
Dec 11, 2000
2,270
0
71
From experience I can tell you many Canadian corporations are bringing any and all data home for exactly this reason.
 

heyheybooboo

Diamond Member
Jun 29, 2007
6,278
0
0
Originally posted by: dawks
I work for a health care provider in Canada, and we are looking at some email options. One I have considered is "Google Apps for your domain". In that case we'd probably use IMAP and keep all of our mail on the Google servers (which are of course in the US, not Canada)

My big concern over this is that I have been lead to believe that with the Patriot Act, the US government has very powerful authority to handle email anyway it sees fit. Is this true? Or as long as we behave normally, we shouldnt have any concerns? Does the government need to go through a judge to look at peoples email? Are they required to contact us before/during/after snooping our email?

Thanks
Fear the National Security Letter

A National Security Letter (NSL) is a form of administrative subpoena used by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and reportedly by other U.S. Government Agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. It is a demand letter issued to a particular entity or organization to turn over various record and data pertaining to individuals. They require no probable cause or judicial oversight. They also contain a gag order, preventing the recipient of the letter from disclosing that the letter was ever issued.
see American Civil Liberties Union v. Ashcroft (2004)
AFAIK it is under gov't appeal ...
 

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