The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is a 1986 law that Congress enacted to protect your privacy in electronic communications, like email and instant messages. ECPA provides scant protection for your identifying information, such as the IP address used to access an account. While Paula Broadwell reportedly created a new, pseudonymous account for the allegedly harassing emails to Jill Kelley, she apparently did not take steps to disguise the IP number her messages were coming from. The FBI could have obtained this information with just a subpoena to the service provider. But obtaining the account’s IP address alone does not establish the identity of the emails’ sender.
How intertwined are you business and personal emails? Is even calling email “personal” outmoded today? Check out the EFF’s position on privacy and email. It isn’t just generals who need to be concerned about who can access their email.