Email and other online communications are a step closer to greater privacy protections after a Senate Judiciary Committee vote today to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The updates, which still need to be passed by the full Senate and House, will more clearly extend 4th Amendment protections to the online world. That would mean law enforcement would need to get a warrant before demanding email and other online content.
ECPA was written in 1986 before so much information about Americans was stored online. The Computer & Communications Industry Association has been a longtime advocate for checks on government surveillance and for these legal updates to better protect privacy online. CCIA is a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, which has lobbied for ECPA reforms.
The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:
“This is a long overdue step toward bringing our online privacy laws closer to both our existing 4th amendment protections and our reasonable expectations for privacy. CCIA is grateful to Chairman Leahy, Senator Lee and other supporters for their work to ensure that our emails, instant messages and social networking communications have robust 4th Amendment-level protections. We hope that Congressional leaders will be able to resist weakening amendments.
“Most people don’t realize that 6 month-old emails have different levels of privacy protection than newer emails. There is broad agreement that fixing this is long overdue. My hope is that sometime in the next 6 months we can get a full House and Senate vote to update this law.
“We look forward to working with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, who is a respected leader on technology and government surveillance issues, to move companion legislation through the House as well.
“There are other areas of law that also need modification to prevent overly broad government surveillance which we hope will be addressed in the future.”