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 It also, however, makes it much easier for the government to spy on a citizen, under outdated laws and interpretations of the Fourth Amendment.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 It is woefully out of date and prohibitively complex.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:

Tech Advocates Ask Senators To Support, Pass USA Freedom Act

Washington – The Computer & Communications Industry Association joined other associations and tech industry advocates in a joint letter urging Senators to support and pass the USA Freedom Act. In late July, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy introduced the USA Freedom Act, an improvement over the bill the House passed earlier in the summer.…

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Senate Offers Better Surveillance Reforms In Its USA Freedom Act

Washington – Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy has introduced surveillance reform legislation that would improve upon the bill the House passed earlier this summer. The Senate’s USA Freedom Act would make the ban on bulk metadata collection more effective and improve the checks and balances. Leahy’s legislation would clear up confusion on bulk data collection…

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Congress, Tech Industry Advocates Weigh Costs of Surveillance Programs

Members of Congress and tech industry advocates discussed the impact of surveillance programs on industry credibility at an Internet Caucus meeting Friday. One threat discussed at the program, “The NSA Surveillance Programs; Assessing the Damages to U.S. Commerce, Confidence and Credibility,” was other countries using the Snowden revelations as an excuse to limit opportunities of…

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House Votes to End Mass Warrantless Surveillance

Washington — In a spirited bipartisan late night defense of the 4th Amendment, Reps Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky and Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California offerred an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would restore provisions of the recently passed USA Freedom Act that prohibit warrantless surveillance of Americans by the NSA.   Rep. Massie explained that,…

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USA Freedom Act Needs Improvements

Washington – The USA Freedom Act is now scheduled for floor action this week under a closed rule. This is unfortunate since this bill needs improvement. The following can be attributed to Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black: “This very important legislation will impact the civil liberties, freedom and security of every…

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