Can Some Internet Memes Finally Get Congress To Pass New Legislation To Protect Your Privacy Online?

from the the-last-time-we-reformed-our-privacy-laws... dept

For many, many years, we've been talking about the need for ECPA reform. ECPA -- the Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- is an incredibly outdated piece of legislation from the 1980s that governs law enforcement's ability to access email and other electronic communications. This was the era before the internet was anywhere close to the mainstream (though it did exist). Among the various weird parts of the law, it says that any communication that is over 180 days old and still on a server is considered "abandoned" so that the government can access it without a warrant. Think about that in this era when you keep all your communications online. It was written when lawmakers thought people would "download" the messages off a server. That's just the most noteworthy problem -- there are all sorts of different definitions based on messages that have been opened or not opened and other oddities as well, almost none of which make sense.

Last year we noted that more than half of the House was co-sponsoring a bill put forth by Reps. Kevin Yoder and Jared Polis to reform ECPA in a big way. But even with so many supporting the law, it failed to move. A big hurdle? Both the IRS and SEC (note: not your standard law enforcement agencies) like the fact that they can use ECPA to snoop through electronic communications (without a warrant -- which those agencies can't get on their own anyway).

Yoder and Polis are back again with another attempt, and it's matched by a similar legislation in the Senate from Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Lee. To get attention for the bill, Yoder, Polis and some other supporters took to Twitter in a bit of a meme fest, highlighting some historical facts to demonstrate just how long it's been since ECPA became law. It's worth scrolling through them all (though, there are a lot), because some are pretty funny:
At this point, it's a complete travesty that such a bill hasn't become law. People have explained the need for it for well over a decade, and more than half of Congress was signed on to co-sponsor it in the last Congressional term. Already this new bill has 228 additional co-sponsors in the House and another 6 co-sponsors in the Senate. The IRS and SEC's objections are simply ridiculous. Having more convenient access to someone's emails is no excuse for not better protecting the privacy of our online communications.

Of course, this isn't the only effort going on to protect privacy. Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Ted Poe and Suzan DelBene have also introduced a bill to update ECPA. It's pretty clear that Congress knows that the law needs to be updated, and it's time to get past whatever objections there are and actually start protecting our privacy.

Filed Under: communications, ecpa, ecpa reform, email, irs, jared polis, kevin yoder, memes, mike lee, patrick leahy, privacy, sec, suzan delbene, ted poe, zoe lofgren


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 2:16am

    No need to be polite

    The IRS and SEC's objections are simply ridiculous. Having more convenient access to someone's emails is no excuse for not better protecting the privacy of our online communications.

    Don't call it 'more convenient access', call it what it is, 'warrantless access'. That's the real sticking point for the IRS/SEC, the ability to go snooping without leaving a paper trail showing just what they are looking for, or having to convince a judge that they have sufficient evidence to go browsing in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 3:28am

    The IRS/SEC weren't the agencies calling out for the death sentence of the bill.

    Who else has better need for online communication access.

    IRS/SEC were used as puppets. Follow the strings, and the obvious shows itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:09am

    Last time we updated #EmailPrivacy laws, Ford model T was a huge success. Oh wait, most of us are still frozen in the distant past. Never mind, carry on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AJ, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:26am

    Horse before the Cart?

    Before we go updating laws and adding new privacy protections, we should probably work on convincing our government to follow the laws we already have. Otherwise were going to go through all this only to have a secret court, in a secret courtroom, sign a secret document, that secretly gives the government the right to secretly ignore these new laws protecting our privacy.

    I guess what I'm getting at is if the government can legally bypass the very laws that we create to stop it from doing what it's doing, what use were those laws in the first place?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RR, 5 Feb 2015 @ 4:31am

    Weak sauce

    My kids could have come up with better memes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thrudd, 5 Feb 2015 @ 5:55am

    memes

    Come on now. The IKEA monkey could have made better ones and most of us know that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 6:59am

    I'm sensing a recurring theme in the selected memes..

    and oddly enough it has to do with Kansas and Kansas City.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 8:01am

      Re: I'm sensing a recurring theme in the selected memes..

      Because Kevin Yoder is speaking to his constituency in Kansas.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 9:21am

        Re: Re: I'm sensing a recurring theme in the selected memes..

        i don't use twitter so i didn't recognize where in the screenshot the originator was. thanks for pointing it out. i guess his head is not as fully inserted in his ass as i thought, which was based on the content of his newsletters. also, the 80s were apparently good for Kansas.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 7:01am

    i would have thought that there were two highly important things needed. first, Senators and politicians who are not being 'encouraged' to vote so security forces can remove all of your privacy and freedom. second have those Senators and politicians who are not being encouraged by the security forces to learn for themselves what it's like to have their privacy and freedom violated, at the drop of a hat, with no recourse. perhaps then there would be a serious updating of the laws concerning not just email, but other on-line activity regardless of whether it's via a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 7:34am

    But even with so many supporting the law, it failed to move. A big hurdle? Both the IRS and SEC (note: not your standard law enforcement agencies) like the fact that they can use ECPA to snoop through electronic communications (without a warrant -- which those agencies can't get on their own anyway).

    Since when does Congress have to do what executive agencies tell them to?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 9:02am

      Re:

      Since they decided that actually doing their damn jobs was just too difficult, and it's much easier to just do what the other parts of the government tell them to.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 7:51am

    Quite generous considering...

    ...any communication that is over 180 days old...is considered "abandoned"...

    ...in my area any physical property is legally considered abandoned after 30 days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 8:23am

      Re: Quite generous considering...

      So I can just take anything you own that you've had more than 30 days? Somehow, I doubt that. It probably has to do with physical property that is left in a public space or somesuch.

      Old emails are not being left in a public space, though. They are being left in private accounts that have a clear owner.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 9:24am

        Re: Re: Quite generous considering...

        access-control/authentication is more clear than the owner. one would have to carefully to read the TOS to see who actually owns the mailbox and it could differ by provider.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 9:46am

          Re: Re: Re: Quite generous considering...

          True, I was using "owner" in the colloquial sense. Nonetheless, even if you're silly enough to use a service that maintains that it owns your email (and why would anyone do that?) that only makes the "abandoned" argument less applicable.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      andyroo, 5 Feb 2015 @ 11:33am

      Re: Quite generous considering...

      If i am saving my emails it is not abandoned not 30 days later not 5 years later, i have saved it for later even if that means 10 years later, damn there are emails i have for purchases i made on the internet from 10 years ago all saved in a virtual folder on the internet.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rosco P Coltrane (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 7:53am

    Hopefully...

    Hopefully somebody in Congress inserts exemptions from terrorist searches so that we all remain safe.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Feb 2015 @ 9:12am

    Someones using their noggin

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    andyroo, 5 Feb 2015 @ 11:28am

    All i want is to know that nobody is allowed to access my email without a court order,and my email is deleted when i delete it, not 6 months or 5 years later. and even then I want to read that court order and let them know if there is a problem with it, I don't want to have all my private communications monitored because some cop made a "mistake" with a warrant.
    No bulk email monitoring ever allowed, ever.

    If the nsa or fbi or anyone else wants to monitor my email they must charge me with a crime first only then can they monitor my email and most defiantly not have access to anyone else using that email address.
    Nothing else is necessary no other rules or laws necessary , email is private communication.

    Anyone abusing the system and monitoring me and not charging me must be punished to the full extent and not allowed to seek monitoring of any more email accounts this included removing access to the NSA or FBI if they abuse the system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 5 Feb 2015 @ 11:50am

      Re:

      All i want is to know...

      I'm pretty sure none of that stuff you want is actually true. Six month old emails stored on a server can be read without a warrant. Your email provider can decide to keep your deleted emails if they want to. The FBI can get a warrant and monitor your email without you knowing about it. The NSA pretty much scoops up all internet traffic. Sleep well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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