1986 Rocked, But It’s Time For Change

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the federal statute that specifies standards for government monitoring of cell phone conversations and Internet communications.

CDT Vice President for Public Policy Jim Dempsey, who has worked closely on this issue for years, writes in Ars Technica:

ECPA’s privacy protections have remained stuck in the past while technology has raced ahead, providing us means of communication that not too long ago existed only in the minds of science fiction writers.

Much like it did with telephones 80 years ago, the government now argues that the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement does not apply to data stored online. Yet, if that same data is stored on your computer’s hard drive, the government acknowledges it needs a warrant to access it. Different rules apply to the same data; the result is a statute that no longer suits modern technology. After a quarter century, it’s time for a change. If you agree, you can sign this petition to Congress to update ECPA.

And if you’re looking to take a stroll down memory lane, below is a short video montage of technology from the mid-80s. 1986 may have rocked, but weak privacy protections don’t.

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