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 It also, however, makes it much easier for the government to spy on a citizen, under outdated laws and interpretations of the Fourth Amendment.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 It is woefully out of date and prohibitively complex.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 Welcomes Action By Judiciary and Intelligence Committees To Curtail Bulk Metadata Collection

Washington – The House Intelligence Committee approved the USA Freedom Act today, which would curtail bulk collection and storage of Americans’ phone metadata by the U.S. government. The bill matches the one the House Judiciary Committee passed yesterday. The Computer & Communications Industry Association has testified on this issue for years, advocating restraint on bulk…

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CCIA’s Response to Big Data Review

Washington – The White House released the results of the Big Data review, which the president received today.  The review consisted of two reports, one focused on policy, which was coordinated by John Podesta, Counselor to the President.  The other, which was prepared by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), focused…

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Technology Industry Outraged At Webcam Spying Revelations

Brussels and Washington – The latest revelations about surveillance by Britain’s intelligence officials at GCHQ disclose details on a multi-year program that involved capturing images from millions of peoples’ video chats. News reports say the images taken from Yahoo webcam chats were secretly gathered and stored for facial recognition purposes. Yahoo has issued a strongly…

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CCIA Sends Congress Letter Offering Economic Arguments For Surveillance Reform

Many websites marked today, Feb. 11 with a banner protesting runaway surveillance and asking Congress to enact the USA Freedom Act to curtail it. CCIA, which has testified against overly broad surveillance in several hearings on reform, sent a letter to members of Congress highlighting damage to user trust online and the economic arguments to rein in…

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President Announces Changes To NSA Surveillance Program

Washington – President Obama announced changes to the way the government collects and stores bulk metadata on citizens and foreigners’ electronic communications during a speech at the Department of Justice today. The Computer & Communications Industry Association is encouraged that the president acknowledged the potential for abuse of this private information, but wished the reforms…

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