If you think the feds need a warrant to start looking at your email, you're dead wrong. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the law governing online communications, was written in 1986. Congress wasn't sure whether to treat email, then in its infancy, more like letters or phone calls. People used to download their email back then, so leaving your information on a company's server meant the feds had to do less paperwork to access it. Now everyone's information is stored online, but that archaic standard is still in place.
"Now everything is kept in the cloud on Google and Yahoo's servers," says Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "That quirk of the law has become hugely important for Americans' privacy." Once you've opened an email or your Facebook account, you've provided your personal information to a third party. The government can then ask that third party — Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Friendster, or whatever — for your information, and they don't necessarily need a warrant. The Constitution protects you from unreasonable search and seizure by the government. It doesn't stop third parties from sharing personal information you willingly give them.
~ from The Real Reason You Should Care About the Petraeus Affair: Privacy by Adam Serwer ~
I hope you see the insidious aspects of this situation. In order to obtain almost any type of internet service, we MUST provide a third party with personal information. However, the moment we do that, we no longer are covered by the 4th Amendment. If we refuse to provide the third party with personal information, we are denied service.
Now, to be perfectly frank, we probably don't NEED half of the services we sign up for. We sign up for these services because it's easy and convenient. That said, as the western world runs more and more through the internet, it is becoming that much more difficult to be a Luddite.
There are many jobs these days that would be hard to preform WITHOUT some type of internet or electronic transmission services. A lot of school, bank and medical records are now housed solely in electronic form. We are basically stuck feeding this monster that we created. And now, through the auspices of government, the monster has decided to feed off of us!