The U.S. Justice Department has abruptly abandoned what had become a high-profile court fight to read Yahoo users' e-mail messages without obtaining a search warrant first. In a two-page brief filed last Friday, the Obama administration withdrew its request for warrantless access to the complete contents of the Yahoo Mail accounts under investigation.
Yahoo's efforts to fend off federal prosecutors' broad request attracted allies--in the form of Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Progress and Freedom Foundation--who argued that Americans who keep their e-mail in the cloud enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. This case was first reported by CNET last week.
Two years ago, Obama pledged that he would "strengthen privacy protections for the digital age." The dispute with Yahoo over private emails raised suspicions about the President's true commitment to privacy rights, and Obama is not in the clear yet either. The administration has taken a position at odds with privacy advocates in a second case in Philadelphia involving warrantless tracking of cell phones. You can read about that case here.