Dramatic Increase in Surveillance Highlights Need for ECPA Reform

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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 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.