Organizations from across the political spectrum joined forces today to launch Digital 4th, a new coalition dedicated to updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Originally passed in 1986, ECPA established standards for government access to private information that is transmitted and stored on the Internet. That was nearly three decades ago, and while technology has evolved rapidly and transformed the way we live, work and store our private information, ECPA remains virtually unchanged.
Digital 4th brings together the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT). The new coalition calls upon Congress to bring privacy protections into the 21st century by treating online communications the same as when they occur through the mail or over the phone.
“Since 1986, technology has advanced at breakneck speed while electronic privacy law remained at a standstill. ECPA allows the government to intercept and access a treasure trove of information about who you are, where you go, and what you do, which is being collected by cell phone providers, search engines, social networking sites, and other websites every day. The time has come for Congress to update ECPA,” said Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
“Privacy protection isn’t a partisan idea. We are coming together to ensure ECPA is modernized so privacy is protected across all platforms of communication. We believe information stored in the cloud, including email, should have the same legal protection as letters and phone calls. This debate has played out before in our country and each time, individual privacy rights have won out,” said Katie McAuliffe, Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and Executive Director of Digital Liberty.
“As ECPA is currently written, neither private information stored in the cloud nor location tracking information is accorded the traditional protection of a judicial warrant. We support extending Fourth Amendment rights to the digital age. This means requiring search warrants for information stored in the cloud and also for location information collected over time through the operation of cell phones and other mobile devices,” said Greg Nojeim, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT).