U.S. Government Seizes Yahoo User Records

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The United States Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) department issued a warrant last week for a particular user’s information in connection with a series of money laundering scams.

Imagine perusing your inbox to find an e-mail message from an African dignitary entitled, “Job Opportunity For You” and the subsequent excitement that is sure to follow.

The offer seems too good to be true. All one has to do is open these packages, cash the checks, keep 10% for themselves and send the next set of documents along? It’s brilliant, the domestic work opportunity that retirees and stay at home moms have been waiting for their entire lives!

It’s also money laundering, which is very much a felony.

These types of scams are no strangers to inboxes across the Internet. It seems like every few months there’s a new scam targeted toward the unsuspecting virtual community, usually involving an African country and the exchange of money.

The ICE, which is the largest division of the Department of Homeland Security, is taking an aggressive posture in cracking down on these scams. Steve Bryant at Google Watch reports on the ICE’s seizure of a user’s data that is allegedly linked with these illegal transactions:

The search warrant was served on January 25th, and Yahoo complied by sending a CD with the affected user’s information to ICE. The warrant requested all emails, histories, buddy lists, profiles, subscriber information, personal info including contact address and numbers, and detailed billing records and connection logs.

In this case, the ICE was completely within the bounds of its authority to demand the disclosure of the user’s information without his or her consent.

For the purposes of criminal investigation, I doubt that anyone would challenge the government’s intentions in seizing such sensitive information from Yahoo. Probable cause was clearly established, and the need for the data was clearly eminent.

The ease of obtaining such data, however, leaves me wondering if the government will try to start tracking this type of user data without probable cause, and whether or not such a practice would be considered a violation of the fourth amendment.

Another question for another day, I suppose.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

U.S. Government Seizes Yahoo User Records
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