WASHINGTON—Digital 4th – a coalition comprised of the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Democracy & Technology and Heritage Action for America – reacted to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
“By going to a third party email provider with a subpoena rather than a warrant, the IRS, SEC, FTC and other Obama Administration agencies want to expand their power to look into citizen’s private information stored on the Internet. It is impossible to say with a straight face that there is a difference between the searchability of US postal mail and email, or to claim that cloud storage looks different from a file cabinet,” said Grover Norquist, President Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and a member of Digital 4th.
“Today federal agencies attempted a huge power grab – one aimed at getting access to many Americans’ email inboxes. In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, representatives of the SEC and FTC claimed that other other types of court orders provide a comparable standard to a warrant based on probable cause. Nothing could be further from the truth. A search warrant – the standard in the constitution – allows access to information only when there is a strong likelihood it will show evidence of criminal violations of the law. That is a high standard that applies only in a narrow class of cases. By contrast the SEC and FTC are seeking access to email whenever it is relevant to civil violations of the law – such as mistakenly filling out a tax form. That is a low standard which applies in many cases. This rule would then apply to every agency – from the IRS to the local health inspector. Agencies shouldn’t be able to highjack reform to seek a digital power grab,” said Chris Calabrese, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and a member of Digital 4th.