Earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service issued a policy statement declaring that, going forward, it will obtain search warrants when requesting user e-mails in criminal investigations from an internet service provider. The IRS specifically noted that it would follow the Sixth Circuit decision in U.S. v. Warshak, 631 F.3d 266 (6th Cir. 2010), which held that government agents violated the Fourth Amendment when they obtained the contents of a defendant’s emails” without a warrant, and added that to the extent that the Stored Communications Act purports to permit the government to obtain such emails warrantlessly, it is unconstitutional.
The IRS policy statement also highlights that they will not seek user e-mails from an ISP in any civil administrative proceeding.
The IRS has seemingly joined the legislative wave supporting reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. As we have previously written, lawmakers have been seeking to amend ECPA to require law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant when obtaining user e-mails from an ISP.