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 It also, however, makes it much easier for the government to spy on a citizen, under outdated laws and interpretations of the Fourth Amendment.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 It is woefully out of date and prohibitively complex.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 Cautions Against Encryption Backdoors In Letter To President Obama

Washington — CCIA joined companies, technologists, and civil liberties groups in a letter to President Obama Tuesday requesting the Administration reject proposals that would require companies to build technical weaknesses or backdoors into encryption in their products.  Strong encryption helps protect the public against the ever-growing threats from identity theft to mobile device theft to…

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CCIA Calls On Congress To Pass Surveillance Reforms After Court Finds Bulk Metadata Collection Illegal

Washington — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Thursday that the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and other records was never authorized under section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  The intelligence community has argued for the legality of their intelligence gathering practices since well before the first Snowden revelations about the extent…

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CCIA Applauds House Judiciary Committee Passage of USA FREEDOM Act, Urges Further Reform

Washington — The Computer & Communications Industry Association welcomes today’s bipartisan vote to pass the USA FREEDOM Act out of the House Judiciary Committee.  The 25-2 margin demonstrates the efficacy and necessity of the reforms contained in the bill. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black: “Though it does not…

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