Americans are creating vast amounts of information about themselves every day. In emails, documents in cloud computing, instant messages, and social networking, the vast majority of this information lives today on servers not controlled by those users. This makes the data more secure, available from anywhere the Internet reaches, and cheaper to store. It also, however, makes it much easier for the government to spy on a citizen, under outdated laws and interpretations of the Fourth Amendment.

Since the late 1960s, Fourth Amendment doctrine has trended toward an interpretation that says that information placed in the care of a third party is not protected by the warrant requirement. The law written to address this interpretation’s effect on the Internet was passed in 1986, and is called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. It is woefully out of date and prohibitively complex. As an example, it allows the government to demand emails stored with a third party (such as web email providers like Google’s GMail or Yahoo!’s email) without a warrant in most situations. A few lower level federal courts have found this approach to be counter to the Fourth Amendment, but the Supreme Court has not addressed the issue.

Until it does, Congress should step in and amend ECPA. CCIA is a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, a group of companies, non-profit organizations, academics, and former prosecutors dedicated to convincing Congress to revisit the law. The major goal of the coalition is to make sure that the law gives warrant protection to all content whether it is an email in a web service, a document on a cloud drive, or in some future technology or service not yet invented.

Most Recent Statements&Findings:

CCIA Encouraged by USA Liberty Act, Seeks Further Improvements

Washington — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich), with 11 bipartisan cosponsors, introduced the USA Liberty Act (H.R. 3989) on Friday. The bill is intended to reauthorize and reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set to expire at the end of this year. Section…

Read more

House Judiciary Subcommittee Examines Data Flow Policies, Other Digital Trade Barriers

Washington — House Judiciary IP & Internet subcommittee chairman Darrell Issa opened Tuesday’s hearing titled “International Data Flows: Promoting Digital Trade in the 21st Century” by saying policies blocking data flows could lead countries to other unfair trade practices like demanding source code or trade secrets.  He said restricting Internet data from flowing across national…

Read more

CCIA Press Conference Call: How US Surveillance Reform Law Impacts Europeans

President Obama quickly signed surveillance reform legislation after the Senate passed the USA Freedom Act Tuesday evening. The Act ends the bulk collection of phone and other records and offers better transparency and oversight for existing surveillance programs. What will this mean for surveillance reform in the U.S. – and what will it mean for…

Read more

Senate Begins Surveillance Reform Process by Passing USA FREEDOM Act

Washington — After years of controversy over mass surveillance by the U.S. government, and lengthy negotiations on the reform of those practices, the Senate has passed the USA FREEDOM Act with a 67 to 32 vote. This legislation permanently ends the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA and will provide greater transparency and…

Read more