Patrick Leahy Introduces Legislation (Yet Again) To Require Government Warrants To Get Your Electronic Info

from the dc-just-keeps-doing-remakes dept

It's been quite a day in terms of news out of DC. We've been talking about copyright/first sale, cybersecurity bills, the CFAA... and now Senator Patrick Leahy, for what feels like the 2,394th time, has introduced a plan to reform ECPA. Like the CFAA, ECPA is an extremely troubling and outdated piece of legislation where Congress tried to deal with "those computer things" back in the 1980s in a manner that just doesn't make any sense today. Mainly it has opened up massive loopholes for the US government to access your data with little to no oversight (for example, the law considers messages on a server for over 180 days to be "abandoned" and thus fair game for law enforcement, as it never considered the idea of cloud storage). Senator Leahy would like to update the law to protect our privacy, such that law enforcement would actually be required to get a warrant.

If all of this sounds familiar, you wouldn't be wrong. We've been discussing it forever. Leahy keeps introducing bills and they never seem to turn into law. Law enforcement has been his main antagonist on this, though the DOJ (somewhat surprisingly) appeared to concede today that ECPA needs significant reform, even calling out the 180 day issue explicitly in testimony before the Judiciary Committee:
Many have noted—and we agree—that some of the lines drawn by the SCA that may have made sense in the past have failed to keep up with the development of technology, and the ways in which individuals and companies use, and increasingly rely on, electronic and stored communications. We agree, for example, that there is no principled basis to treat email less than 180 days old differently than email more than 180 days old. Similarly, it makes sense that the statute not accord lesser protection to opened emails than it gives to emails that are unopened.
That said, the DOJ is likely to push back on significant parts of any ECPA reform effort, to make sure it still has the ability to trawl through as much data as possible. Much of the testimony seems to warn of a parade of horribles that could occur if (*gasp*!) it has to get warrants for everything.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 3:40pm

    I don't think anyone familiar with the practices of the DoJ could have possibly read "there is no principled basis to treat email less than 180 days old differently than email more than 180 days old" could have concluded that they were arguing for protecting old email MORE, but rather that they are arguing to protect new email LESS.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 3:41pm

    Duh

    If you have nothing to hide...

    You should have no problem answering questions from the police, letting your person, house, car, or other property be searched without a warrant, giving the government access to your emails, phone calls, voicemails, texts, IMs, thoughts, etc. In fact if you have nothing to hide you should have no problem being held indefinitely, tortured or having your daughter raped.

    People who worry about what the government does are usually terrorists. The government knows better than anyone else, and they obviously are looking out for everyones best interest, so let them do whatever they want.

     

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      Atkray (profile), Mar 19th, 2013 @ 5:44pm

      Re: Duh

      If you have nothing to hide...

      You should have no problem answering questions from the police, letting your person, house, car, or other property be searched without a warrant, giving the government access to your emails, phone calls, voicemails, texts, IMs, thoughts, etc. In fact if you have nothing to hide you should have no problem being held indefinitely, tortured or having your daughter raped.

      People who worry about what the government does are usually terrorists. The government knows better than anyone else, and they obviously are looking out for everyones best interest, so let them do whatever they want.

      Just make sure I get my Idol, Biggest Loser and Pawn Stars.

       

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      Colin, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 6:11pm

      Re: Duh

      Voting this "funny" because otherwise it's just depressingly sad if it isn't sarcasm...

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 7:07pm

      Re: Duh

      Amazing Poe's law in action, I'm sure there's at least one clueless sack of crap out there who still thinks like this.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 3:54pm

    Warrents

    These Are a basic tool in the fight against police corruption,
    Warrents create a paper trail of what our police are looking for, what they suspect, what offical want to know what, If questions arise about police actions at an event, Proper Warrents can clarify and protect police actions. A bad or improper warrent makes it that much easier to catch out corrupt officials.

     

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      Rapnel (profile), Mar 19th, 2013 @ 5:05pm

      Re: Warrents

      I'm hating being that person but - warrEnt - is not a word. I wouldn't have mentioned it being that I've done it my damn self however multiple uses of incorrect usage obliges me to highlight your mistake in the hopes that you will not continue your error or worse repeat it in a not-so-anonymous setting.

      Other than that - I concur. Our papers, our effects - both can be and are digital. There is no excuse for treating them otherwise.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 4:09pm

    And from whom, do you suppose, would the government get these warrants? And does anyone seriously think the government's request would be turned down?

     

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 19th, 2013 @ 4:41pm

      Re:

      From the courts -- a different branch of government. I understand your point, and there is such an effect there. How much of an effect depends on the court that would be issuing the warrants -- if it's the FISA court, then we're not talking about anything significantly better than no warrants at all. If it's a real court, then the protection afforded is better than you might think.

      In any case, as another commenter mentioned, the process of getting a warrant does leave a paper trail even if they're rubber-stamped. That can be very valuable all by itself.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 4:42pm

      Re:

      From a judge. And yes, sometimes the government's request is-and-was turned down, because there was no justifiable cause. That's why the government is fighting so hard to retain the ability to do whatever the heck they want do to without a warrant, even if they have to sound like idiots making believe that anything that happened on "24" could happen in real life. They really like not having to prove just cause for warrants, it always gets in the way of whatever it is they want to do.

      Apparently the first thing the Bush administration did when they got the right to do whatever they wanted to do without a warrant was to spy on journalists to find out who was leaking info about the skeevy things the Bush administration was doing to the newspapers. Not saving NYC in the nick of time from mad bomber terrorists or whatnot. That's not to say the Obama administration is any better, we just haven't found out what they're doing yet.

      I want things to go back to the way it was pre 9-11 and our collective national nervous breakdown and complete loss of balls and sanity.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 19th, 2013 @ 6:26pm

    Bawk. Bawk. Cluck. Cluck.

     

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    special-interesting (profile), Mar 20th, 2013 @ 6:48pm

    One of the few really nice bits of news on this good day. I hope it can put some teeth into the the battle and take a bite out of current federal privacy policy.

    The ambiguity of the DoJ is normal. Who knows what they think. Remember that many are appointed and were civil copyright or drug prosecution lawyers before.

    Getting proper warrants for any intrusion into peoples private lives is necessary for the normal operation of democracy. It just doesn't work any other way.

    Considering the non terrorist uses of the terrorist laws so far is a to dump present law allowing such. I agree with the pre 9-11 comment. Nothing was wrong except the terrorists themselves.

    Kudos for Senator Patrick Leahy. May others follow this leadership. Please note all opposition and “Govern yourself accordingly.” (Couldn't resist the Hansmeier quote.)

     

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