State Laws/Franchising

Coalition Calls For U.S. To Modernize Electronic Privacy Law

3/30/2010 5:10 PM 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 site with more information at digitaldueprocess.org. The 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: ACLU, American Library Association, Americans for Tax Reform, AOL, Association of Research Libraries, AT&T, 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, The Progress & Freedom Foundation and Salesforce.com.

Jim Dempsey, Center for Democracy & Technology's vice president for public policy, on a conference call with reporters Tuesday 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."

 

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