Washington – As privacy advocates mark Data Privacy Day Monday, the Computer & Communications Industry Association is calling on Congress to update the nation’s 27 year old laws governing when and how the government can obtain peoples email and other online documents.

In 1986 Congress wrote the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that attempted to address this issue. While it was considerably forward looking for its time, it couldn’t have predicted how people would be using the Internet nearly 30 years later. The law provides some protections for online communications, but not nearly to the level that the public would expect.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, who actually wrote ECPA in 1986, has introduced updates that would require law enforcements to get warrants before obtaining this type of private information online and fix some of the most egregious problems. Late last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure with bipartisan support. Now the new House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has indicated his willingness to work with Leahy on a House version.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Congress must take that last step and turn the bill into law. It is the right thing to do for business, it is the right thing to do for innovation, and it is the right thing to do for civil liberties. Senator Leahy must be congratulated and thanked for his work so far, and encouraged to finish the work. There can’t be a better week than this one marking Data Privacy Day to take those final steps.

“We’re encouraged with statements in the past week that the House and Senate plan to work together to bring this law into the 21st Century.

“Most people would be surprised that currently law enforcement can demand your emails from a web mail provider and there is no requirement to ask a judge to sign a warrant. The fourth amendment protects documents in our homes and that law was based on our founders’ insight into the potential for government to abuse its power if it can find out private information about citizens without restraint. A change in technology should not mean a change in the principles behind our laws against unreasonable search and seizure.

“Another reason to update the law is an economic one. Outdated privacy laws are hampering the development of one of the few growing sectors in the American economy – cloud computing. The lack of protection can be a reason individuals and companies, who might be interested in taking advantage of the increased productivity, security, and cost savings that come with deploying cloud solutions, hesitate to enact those updates.”

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