Judge tells off the snoops

A federal magistrate judge in the District of Columbia has denied a government warrant request to search an unnamed user’s mac.com e-mail address.

This is news because it so rarely happens as judges usually allow the government to snoop on who they like.

The case involves alleged corruption and conspiracy by a defence contractor.

Judge John Facciola said that the government was submiting overly broad warrants and made no effort to balance the law enforcement interests against the obvious expectation of privacy e-mail account holders have in their communications.

Federal authorities asked the court to grant the warrant request, which asked for “All records or other information stored by an individual using each account, including address books, contact and buddy lists, pictures, and files,” and logged IP addresses, billing details, and more.

However, the judge said that the government was really after e-mails from December to the present and nothing explicitly requested that Apple gives the government any e-mails.

Facciola thinks it this confusion was caused by poor drafting, but would allow the cops to take anything they like. He thought that the government was using language that has the potential to confuse Apple, which has the job of working out what information must be given to the government in the hope of getting more information.

He added that the court should not be placed in the position of compelling Apple to work out what the government actually seeks and until this application is clarified, it will be denied.