Now Is The Time To Reform Outdated Electronic Privacy Laws

from the vanishing-rights dept

Given everything that’s been going on with the stories of NSA surveillance lately, it’s more clear than ever that our electronic privacy laws are broken. For many years, we’ve written about the drastic need for ECPA reform. ECPA is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was passed in 1986. As you can imagine, it’s exceptionally outdated and convoluted (such as claiming that any emails on a server for more than 180 days should be considered “abandoned” and available for law enforcement to read — a concept that makes no sense in an era of hosted email with tremendous storage). ECPA is regularly abused by law enforcement agencies seeking information on Americans. This goes well beyond what the NSA is doing in many ways. There’s been support in Congress in the past for ECPA reform, but it’s never quite made it.

A large group of organizations and companies — including us at Floor64/Techdirt, along with (among others) EFF, Center for Democracy and Technology, Free Press, Fight for the Future, Demand Progress, ACLU, Engine Advocacy, CCIA, American Library Association, reddit, DuckDuckGo and more — have teamed up to create, to push for a much needed update to ECPA’s outdated rules. Instead, we’d like to see a return to basic 4th Amendment ideas like requiring a warrant to search for info. Sounds crazy, I know, but we’re in an age where we actually have to tell Congress that it’s time to respect the Constitution, because they seem to forget about it all too often.

The latest proposal to support ECPA reform, called the Email Privacy Act, or HR 1852, was introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder and has 137 co-sponsors — so it has significant support in Congress. But it needs more support if it’s actually going to pass in this do-nothing Congress that we have.

Please check out the site, where you can let your elected officials that ECPA needs to be reformed, and that it should respect the basic tenets of the 4th Amendment. You can also read more about ECPA, why it’s broken, and what it means for your privacy.

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Comments on “Now Is The Time To Reform Outdated Electronic Privacy Laws”

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out_of_the_blue says:

To prohibit Google reading your Gmail? ... Oh, thought not.

Gov’t is actually a minor player in the loss of privacy: corporations not only have larger systems, but will sell all that they glean to the gov’t, anyway. So why focus on ECPA?

Corporatist Mike is all for reforms so long as ineffective, wants mega-corporation Google free to spy all it can and monetize your lost privacy. That laissez-faire “no evidence of real harm” attitude is enough to guarantee that trends will continue.

Who is “us at Floor64/Techdirt”? What the heck does Floor64 sell? Inquiring minds want to know, and no, there’s no answer on the Floor64 page, just buzzwords and bafflegab…

When you think surveillance or spying or snooping, think Google!

silverscarcat (profile) says:

Re: Knock it off already

Sheesh, you’re nothing more than an asshat at this point.

Yes, we get it, they’re spying on us, but at least Google doesn’t have a fucking military and spy operation that can over-throw a 3rd world country’s leader, instill a dictator that is oppressive that will then cause trouble in that part of the world a couple decades later.

You know, like the U.S. Government did.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: To prohibit Google reading your Gmail? ... Oh, thought not.

The idea would be that a 4th amendment respecting ECPA reform would/should criminalize the very “google spying” you are worried about. Its not just about government spying, its about any sort of espionage. If its criminal for google employees to read your emails or give those emails to a third party, you are protected against a whole lot more then just government spying. By assuming google is getting a free pass, you are setting up a strawman.

And you realize that your ISP, the browser you used to post and the NSA all took some data from your visit and post right? But only one of those was doing it without any input from you.

P.S. Floor 64, from a quick read of the ‘about’ page, is a company providing analysis of industry trends and changes to industry practice and the underlying economic effects, to corporate clients. And thats without, you know, asking nicely.

Anonymous Coward says:

and it’s exactly why it wont be done. there is no way that this or any other government is going to allow the people to have back that which they took from them, ie, privacy and freedom! that couldn’t be done anyway without changing the way the entertainment industries constantly trample on peoples rights and demand more surveillance of IP addresses etc, just to prevent them from having to join us all in the digital age, compete in the market place and give customers what they want!

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