Monday, May 2, 2011
Dropbox Makes Files Available To Law Enforcement. Is a Warrant Needed?
While up late with the baby one night recently, I came across a discussion on Dropbox providing information to law enforcement.
The claim is:
The unanswered question is what type of valid legal process is required. One possibility is that Dropbox will provide files in response to a subpoena, which the government can easily issue in most investigations. The other possibility is that Dropbox would require a warrant before providing the information.
Whether a warrant is needed turns on whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in files stored on Dropbox. On the one hand, by uploading files on Dropbox, people are taking a risk that the files may be disclosed. This is because the user is voluntarily providing the files to a third party. On the other hand, by encrypting the files and requiring a password to access some of them, users may have a much greater expectation of privacy than in files that are made publicly available.
As noted here, some courts have held that the government must obtain a warrant before accessing emails stored by third parties. The question for some court will be whether this rule applies to services like Dropbox.