The First Law of Mail Servers:
1. Any organisation which runs or hosts a mail server shall have no rights to the contents of the mail stored thereon, except when they qualify under paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 below.
2. Every email shall be considered the exclusive property jointly of the sender and recipient, and shall not be disclosed to third parties without the express permission of both parties.
3. Permission-to-disclose each copy of an email sent to multiple recipients, or to the multiple members of a distribution list, shall be evaluated independently of the other copies.
4. Being a recipient of a blind-CC of a message shall confer no rights, except those inherited from membership of a distribution list which isn't blind.
5. If a mail server is backed up, the only permissible purpose of the backup is to restore data in case of systems failure.
6. The only redress an employer may have in case of a suspected abuse of access to email is to make a reasonable charge for use of bandwidth and storage capacity. An employer has no rights to an employee's email other than to measure the amount of bandwidth and storage used.
There are no exceptions to the First Law of Mail Servers.
This means that:
- If I am in receipt of an email sent both to myself and another person, I shall have no rights over what the sender and the other recipient decide to do with the other recipient's copy. (rule 3)
- Even if I am a law-inforcement agent, or an industrial spy, or an ISP, or someone with lots of expensive lawyers in my pocket, I still can't read anyone's email apart from my own.