SIIA Urges Congressional Support for Critical MLAT Funding

In a letter sent to congressional leaders this morning, the Software & Information Industry Association– the principal trade association for the software and digital content industries – joined with several other business and technology organizations in calling for increased funding to allow the Department of Justice to adequately handle its responsibilities under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs).

Improving the MLAT is a highly cost-effective way both to enhance law enforcement and to ensure the smooth flow of international trade, which is why it has been established as a top priority by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ).  Indeed, this is an investment worth making.

Why are MLATs important to begin with?  They matter because they are the primary mechanism through which law enforcement agencies in different countries can collect evidence from each other.  It is imperative that high standards are maintained in order to ensure due process.  So, for example, the Department of Justice insists that foreign law enforcement agencies provide a probable cause justification for obtaining, say, an American citizen’s e-mail records.  Foreign law enforcement authorities are also obliged to ensure that the procedural safeguards they have established to protect their citizens are respected when U.S. prosecutors seek evidence overseas.  MLATs are a mechanism for vital international law enforcement cooperation, as well as for ensuring due process.

The increased funding makes possible quicker processing of MLAT requests while at the same time protecting individuals’ rights.  Currently, it takes on average about a year to process an MLAT request.  This is simply not acceptable.  As the letter to the Congress notes: “With additional prosecutors, support personnel, and technology, the Department of Justice estimates it would narrow MLAT response times to a matter of weeks by the end of 2015.”  The establishment of a more streamlined MLAT process also helps to address the European Commission’s call for action on rebuilding trust in EU-US data flows.  The Commission’s Communication on rebuilding trust mentions the MLAT as an element in this effort.

The MLAT reform initiative is one more example of the Software & Information Industry Association’s (and other U.S. trade associations and companies) strong support for law enforcement and intelligence reform that protects the world from terrorist and law enforcement threats, as well as upholds fundamental values.  Besides MLAT reform, SIIA once again urges Congress to approve Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) modernization reform, as well as for the international community to integrate the seven principles for surveillance that SIIA and the Information Technology Industry Council released on January 16, 2014.

Carl Schonander is Director of International Public Policy at SIIA.

Email Privacy Act Reaches Milestone: Majority Support in the House

Yesterday, the Email Privacy Act (H.R.1852) reached a major milestone:  formal support from a bipartisan majority of House member—that’s 218 of the 435 members of the House, including a “majority of the majority” with 136 Republicans and 82 Democrats signing on as sponsors of the legislation.

At a time when there is little agreement in Washington, this stands out as a bipartisan priority to level the playing field for protection of electronic communications.

Updating this law is a position also recently endorsed by the White House, established as a priority recommendation in its recent Big Data Report to “ensure the standard of protection for online, digital content is consistent with that afforded in the physical world—including by removing archaic distinctions between e-mail left unread or over a certain age.”

The Email Privacy Act gives members of Congress an opportunity to advance critical privacy legislation by enacting this simple, meaningful and broadly supported privacy reform, which would require government agents to obtain warrants from a judge in order to force service providers to disclose the private email and documents they store online for their customers.

SIIA today is calling on the House to work with all deliberate speed to pass this bipartisan priority legislation.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPolicy.

SIIA Welcomes Administration’s Privacy and Big Data Report; Says Current Regulatory Framework Can Respond to Potential Problems

SIIA today responded to the release of the Administration’s Report on Privacy and Big Data.  SIIA welcomed the report’s assessment that big data provides substantial public benefits and will provide more benefits in the future.  The organization believes the current regulations are adequate to address potential concerns.

As the report recognizes, the collection and analysis of data is leading to better consumer products and services and innovations in healthcare, education, energy, and the delivery of government benefits.  SIIA member companies are driving this innovation by leading the development of techniques for analyzing big data, while also working to safeguard personal data.  We will continue to work with the Administration to promote the responsible use of data to drive innovation, job-creation and economic growth.

The Administration’s work to examine discrimination concerns is extremely important.  It is our view that current law works.  Vigilantly enforced consumer protection and antidiscrimination laws are strong and flexible enough to prevent unfair practices.  Industry efforts are also safeguarding data privacy and preventing discriminatory practices.  Burdensome new legal requirements would only impede data-driven innovation and hurt the ability of U.S. companies to create jobs and drive economic growth.

As recently as three weeks ago the Federal Trade Commission used existing authority under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to bring cases against companies that used data in ways that violated the Act’s consumer protection provisions. Other possible unfair or discriminatory practices in the use of data may already be regulated under other statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.

In addition, SIIA is delighted that the report recognized the need to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). As users increasingly store email and other communications remotely, it is critical to reform ECPA to establish a warrant requirement for access to these communications, regardless of where they are stored.

Mark MacCarthy, Vice President, Public Policy at SIIA, directs SIIA’s public policy initiatives in the areas of intellectual property enforcement, information privacy, cybersecurity, cloud computing and the promotion of educational technology. Follow Mark on Twitter at @Mark_MacCarthy

Dramatic Increase in Surveillance Highlights Need for ECPA Reform

The latest transparency report , released by Google today, contains a robust call to Congress to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to include a bright-line warrant-for-content requirement.

In summary, the report shows that law enforcement requests for access to data has more than doubled over the past three years.  Of course, Google’s data presents just a snapshot of all users’ content that is stored remotely by a wide range of “cloud” or hosted IT service providers.

Unfortunately, the rules for law enforcement access to this data are inconsistent.  While a warrant is required to access data stored on local computers in a user’s home, the standard is lower for access to electronic files stored remotely by a third-party.

Governmental entities should be required to obtain a warrant—issued based on a showing of probable cause—before requiring companies like Google to disclose the content of users’ electronic communications. SIIA strongly supports legislation pending in the House and Senate (S. 607 and H.R. 1852) that would reform the quarter century old ECPA to provide the much needed warrant requirement for electronic content.

David LeDuc is Senior Director, Public Policy at SIIA. He focuses on e-commerce, privacy, cyber security, cloud computing, open standards, e-government and information policy. Follow the SIIA public policy team on Twitter at @SIIAPubPolicy.

SIIA Applauds Sens. Leahy and Lee for Introducing ECPA Reform Legislation

SIIA thanks Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) for introducing a bill today to update the antiquated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and protect Americans’ online privacy in today’s networked world.

The bill would level the playing field for “cloud computing,” by ensuring that electronic correspondence stored remotely with an Internet company in the “cloud” receives the same level of protection afforded letters, photos and other private material stored in a drawer or filing cabinet, or on a computer at home.

ECPA was enacted 27 years ago with good intentions, but the world of communications and computing is a different place today. In 1986, there was no such thing as email, and Americans had not yet begun storing personal information online. Congress must make passing ECPA reform a priority this year, so that Americans can trust that their private online information is protected from overzealous law enforcement intrusion.

Requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before obtaining Americans’ email and other private online communications is critical to bring U.S. law into the 21st Century.  SIIA urges the House and Senate to expeditiously enact this legislation.

Laura Greenback is Communications Director at SIIA. Follow the SIIA Public Policy team at @SIIAPolicy.

SIIA Urges Support for Legislation to Reform ECPA as House Subcommittee Examines Cloud Privacy

SIIA called for a level playing field for cloud computing as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations prepares for a hearing tomorrow regarding reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

We have seen tremendous technological advances in communications and computing technology since 1986, when ECPA was enacted. The legal framework provided by this outdated statue leaves both providers and users of remote computing with a complex and baffling set of rules. These rules are both difficult to explain and to apply in this age of networked and cloud computing.

SIIA urges members of the Judiciary Committee to work with all deliberate speed to enact legislation creating a warrant requirement for law enforcement access to remotely stored electronic content.  It is critical to level the playing field for information Americans store in the cloud, ensuring that it receives the same protection as the information they store in their homes.

Ken WaschKen Wasch is President of SIIA. Follow the SIIA Software team on twitter at @SIIASoftware.

Movement on privacy, IP, cybersecurity in Washington

Today Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). In response, SIIA issued a statement applauding the Chairman’s leadership and characterizing this as a big step toward making sure that the information Americans store virtually in the cloud receives the same level of protection as the information stored in their homes. Given the broad coalition of supporters and interest expressed by House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), this issue is expected to receive considerable attention in both the House and Senate in the months ahead.

Last Thursday the White House released its long-awaited cybersecurity legislative proposal to address cybersecurity threats to the Nation’s critical infrastructure. In response to the proposal, SIIA released a statement commending the commitment to the strong public-private partnership and pledging to continue working with Administration officials and Congressional leaders on this critical issue. As if this wasn’t enough to increase the attention on cybersecurity policy, the Administration followed-up on Monday by announcing the U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace that provides the President’s “vision for the future of the Internet” and sets an “agenda for partnering with other nations and peoples to achieve that vision.” Importantly, the plan emphasizes adhering to commitments to freedom, privacy and the free flow of information.

Intellectual Property
Also last Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy, ranking member Grassley, and Senator Hatch introduced “The Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act” (The PROTECT IP Act, s. 968), a legislation to provide the government and rights holders with improved tools to help stop the use websites to profit from piracy and counterfeiting of software, content and other intellectual property. SIIA issued a statement in support of the legislation, and urged Congress to make this issue a priority. The bill is included on the agenda to be mark up at the Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting this Thursday. On Sunday, the comment period for ICANN’s Draft Applicant Guidebook (6th version) closed. SIIA submitted comments urging ICANN to delay its vote on the DAG and address remaining concerns with the rights protection mechanisms and whois provisions. The ICANN Board will be meeting June 20 in Singapore to consider whether to approve the Guidebook at that time and open the process for new gTLD applications.

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