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

ECPA/Privacy
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.

Cybersecurity
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.

For SIIA policy updates including upcoming events, news and analysis, subscribe to SIIA’s weekly policy email newsletter, Digital Policy Roundup.