News

Privacy Law Update Urged

4/05/2010 2:22 AM Eastern

A coalition of technology companies,
consumer-privacy advocates, think tanks and academics
has joined forces to urge the U.S. government to update
a 24-year-old law — the Electronic Communications Privacy
Act — for the Internet age.

The Digital Due Process coalition established a Web site
with more information at digitaldueprocess.org. Organizers
argue that ECPA, which provides the framework for government
access to electronic communications in criminal investigations,
needs to address e-mail and private files stored
in the Internet “cloud.”

Members of the coalition include: the American Civil
Liberties Union, American Library Association, Americans
for Tax Reform, AOL, Association of Research Libraries,
AT&T, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Citizens
Against Government Waste, Competitive Enterprise Institute,
Computer and Communications Industry Association,
eBay, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google, Information
Technology & Innovation Foundation, Integra Telecom, Intel,
Loopt, Microsoft, NetCoalition, Th e Progress & Freedom
Foundation and Salesforce.com.

Jim Dempsey, Center for Democracy & Technology’s vice
president for public policy, on a conference call with reporters
last week referred to the fact that the law was enacted
in 1986, which was “light-years ago in Internet terms … It’s
time to update ECPA.”

Dempsey cited the need to preserve traditional privacy
rights in the face of technological change, while also ensuring
that law enforcement can carry out investigations and
letting industry innovate.

For example, under current ECPA provisions, a governmental
entity may require a provider of “wire or electronic
communication service or a provider of remote computing
service” to disclose communications that are not readily
accessible to the public — using only a search warrant issued
based on a showing of probable cause.

The group said it is reaching out to government officials and
law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of
Justice, “to develop consensus on updates to the law.”

November