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 It also, however, makes it much easier for the government to spy on a citizen, under outdated laws and interpretations of the Fourth Amendment.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 It is woefully out of date and prohibitively complex.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

Major Study Sheds Light On Online Privacy, Security Values, Behavior

Washington, D.C. – A new poll released today by the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) found that Internet users are highly concerned about the theft of personal and financial information and believe strongly that the federal government should do more to protect them. This CCIA telephone survey of 1,000 voters was conducted by Benenson Strategy…

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CCIA Welcomes NSA Surveillance Recommendations in Report To White House

Washington – More steps to reform NSA surveillance are on the table today as the White House has released the report it received from the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. The Computer & Communications Industry Association, which has advocated for surveillance reform for more than a decade including at a Senate Judiciary…

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UN Resolution on surveillance a good start, but 5-eyes countries prevent it from being great

The world’s highest and most diverse political body has finally reacted to this summer’s revelations of mass Government surveillance programs. Last week, a subcommittee of the UN General Assembly (GA) adopted a resolution on “The right to privacy in the digital age”, which contains a strongly worded condemnation of online surveillance. The resolution, which can…

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CCIA Praises Surveillance Reform Plans At Senate Judiciary Hearing

Washington – During a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Wednesday afternoon, Computer & Communications Industry Association President & CEO Ed Black testified on why it is in the national interest to reform the scope of government surveillance and to be transparent about remaining data collection practices so that Congress and the American people can evaluate…

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Tech Companies Release Surveillance Reform Principles

Washington – A number of leading tech companies today released a list of surveillance reform principles. These principles include sensible limitations on government collection of information — including bulk collection, enhanced oversight, increased transparency, and international coordination aimed at avoiding conflicting laws across international borders. The principles also emphasize the importance of the free flow…

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