Leahy Introduces Online Privacy Legislation

May 17, 2011

Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy has introduced long awaited legislation to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that sets the ground rules for law enforcement to gather electronic information on citizens. The existing ECPA law was written before the modern Internet had developed. We now rely more on computing, including cloud computing, and face complex issues involving ubiquitous mobile connectivity.

Leahy’s amendment would create a warrant requirement, meaning the government would have to show probable cause, to obtain access to all content in the cloud such as email or shared documents. It would also require the government or law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before requiring companies to turn over real time location information on a customer. Past geolocation data would only require a court order.The Computer & Communications Industry Association is a member of the broad-based Digital Due Process coalition, which has been advocating for updates to the outdated privacy law, and CCIA filed comments when the Senate Judiciary Committee considered this legislation last fall.
The following statement can be attributed to Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black:

“When electronic privacy rules are uncertain, it can have a chilling effect on customers adopting new technology. This legislation provides a long needed update on the ground rules for technology that was not in widespread use when the law was written more than two decades ago.

“People have the same expectations for privacy when writing a letter or email. But recent court cases have shown that interpreting the law for email and text messages has varied, so Congress needs to step in and address this. CCIA has long supported ensuring that Fourth Amendment protections apply to prevent overly permissive searches and seizures of electronic communications. While this bill would still allow access to past location data without a warrant, it is a step in the right direction.”


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