It's Time To Update Our Privacy Laws: Tell Your Elected Officials To Reform ECPA Now

from the about-time dept

We've written a few times about the urgent need to reform ECPA -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which is woefully outdated, having passed in 1986. Of course, every time there's an attempt to reform it, it seems to fail, often because folks in law enforcement like the outdated law that lets them easily spy on others without a warrant. The latest attempt at ECPA reform is a mostly good proposal from Senator Leahy that (as expected) has law enforcement types livid. The crux of the reform is that law enforcement would need to get a warrant for most situations if they wanted to peer into your electronic lives. That seems entirely consistent with that quaint concept sometimes referred to as the Fourth Amendment.

Last week there was some buzz about a possible manager's amendment from Leahy that would open the door to various federal agencies being able to issue subpoenas without having to get warrants, but Leahy has since insisted that he will introduce no such amendment. Whether it was because of the outcry about it, or if it was never really intended, is a point of some debate. But, either way, the outcry did make some impact -- though not enough. There are still rumors of similar privacy destroying amendments from other Senators at the markup, which is slated for this upcoming Thursday.

In particular, it is expected that Senator Chuck Grassley is planning to sell out the 4th Amendment by offering an amendment even worse than the one discussed last week. It would take away the requirement for a warrant for many more federal agencies. Apparently, Senator Grassley thinks that the whole requirement of warrants based on probable cause before searches can take place is a recommendation, rather than the law of the land.

Given that, a bunch of groups and organizations have teamed up to set up VanishingRights.com, a site asking people to contact your Senator today, especially if they're on the Senate Judiciary Committee (list, with phone numbers, is on the website), to let them know that (a) you support ECPA reform that requires a warrant and (b) you oppose any amendment, such as Senator Grassley's that would take away that warrant requirement. The website has tools for emailing, but also phone numbers and a possible script for calling. If you can, I highly recommend that you call rather than email, as it has a much stronger impact.

If you believe that privacy matters, and that your electronic documents deserve the basic privacy that a warrant provides, rather than just letting law enforcement sniff through your emails freely, now is the time to speak up.

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 26 Nov 2012 @ 2:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I agree with you, and what you're saying isn't counter to what I'm saying.

    The issue is that most voters don't vote rationally. They vote based on what tribe the candidates are members of, or whether they think they'd personally like the candidate, or what candidate makes them feel warm and fuzzy, and so forth.

    All of these things can be easily influenced through advertising. The cash buys the advertising, which means it buys the votes.

    Politicians give more weight to the ones that hold the money because the money is what gets them the votes. What voters are currently making a lot of noise about matters less than the amount of advertising a candidate can buy.

    Voter outrage isn't unimportant, and the best financed candidate doesn't always win. But money is the biggest player, and most of the time the biggest ad buyer is the victor.

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