The court also questions application of the private search doctrine in light of the United States Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. In this case, NCMEC exceeded the search of the e-mail and attachments by AOL since AOL did not open the e-mail and examine the photos but relied only on a digital "hit" indicating one of the images matched an image previously found to be child pornography.
The case was remanded to the District Court for further consideration. So for the time being, it appears the operations of NCMEC continue unchanged. But this case bears watching as the District Court considers other reasons the search may be acceptable.
In the end, the ruling provides, ". . .hard questions remain to be resolved on remand, not least the question whether the third-party doctrine might preclude Mr. Ackerman’s claim to the Fourth Amendment’s application, a question the government has preserved and the district court and we have reserved. But about one thing we can be very certain. There can be no doubt that NCMEC does important work and that its work can continue without interruption. After all, it could be that the third-party doctrine will preclude motions to suppress like Mr. Ackerman’s. Or that changes in how reports are submitted or reviewed might allow NCMEC to access attachments with matching hash values directly, without reviewing email correspondence or other attachments with possibly private, noncontraband content — and in this way perhaps bring the government closer to a successful invocation of the private search doctrine. Or it may be possible that the government could cite exigent circumstances or attenuation doctrine or special needs doctrine or the good faith exception to excuse warrantless searches or avoid suppression in at least some cases. But even if not a single one of these potential scenarios plays out — and we do not mean to prejudge any of them — we are confident that NCMEC’s law enforcement partners will struggle not at all to obtain warrants to open emails when the facts in hand suggest, as they surely did here, that a crime against a child has taken place."