CCIA has been deeply involved for a long time in efforts to
convince Congress to give the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) the
attention it deserves. ECPA, written in 1986, dictates under what circumstances
the government may demand a personís information when it is stored online. The
law predates much of what we know as the Internet today, such as social
networking, cloud computing, and mobile technology. While Congress did the best
it could with what was known at the time, the law is now showing
its age in serious ways.
For example, ECPA allows the government to demand access to
emails that are older than 180 days without producing a warrant based on
probable cause. Emails younger than 180 days, on the other hand, require a
warrant. This seemingly arbitrary distinction may have made sense in 1986, but
only causes confusion today.
Similarly, ECPA does not address the question of access to
records regarding location, as there was no need in the mid-80s. Today, of course,
most Americans carry with them a mobile telephone that is constantly updating
the service provider with its location. The changes in technology over the past
25 years require a similar changes in the law in order to avoid disconnects
between peopleís expectations and reality.
That is why CCIA has been heavily involved in the Digital
Due Process Coalition, which is a group of companies, industry associations,
academics, and non-profits advocating for ECPA reform.
It is also why we want to highlight today this petition put together by the Center for
Democracy and Technology.
Simply put, it outlines two basic proposals: the government
should have to get a warrant before it reads any content stored online, and also
before tracking peoplesí location through their mobile phones.
These are straightforward ideas that will be good for
business, and more importantly, perfectly track with everyday expectations of
privacy in the modern age. CCIA will be signing the petition. We encourage all
of our readers to do the same.