In U.S. v Wilson, the Ninth Circuit Reaffirms Fourth Amendment Protection for Electronic Communications

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In a powerful new ruling for digital privacy rights, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has confirmed that the police need to get a warrant before they open your email attachments—even if a third party’s automated system has flagged those attachments as potentially illegal. We filed an amicus brief in the case.

How We Got Here

Federal law prohibits the possession and distribution of child sexual assault material (also known as child pornography or CSAM). It also requires anyone who knows another possesses or is engaged in distributing CSAM to report to a quasi-governmental organization called the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Although federal law does not require private parties to proactively search for CSAM, most, if not all major ISPs do, including Google, the ISP at issue in Wilson’s case. Once one of Google’s employees identifies an image as CSAM, the company uses a proprietary technology to assign a unique hash value to the image. Google retains the hash value (but not

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