Washington, DC – A broad coalition of privacy groups, think tanks, technology companies and academics today issued principles for updating the key federal law that defines the rules for government access to email and private files stored in the Internet “cloud.” The coalition cited the need to preserve traditional privacy rights in the face of technological change while also ensuring that law enforcement agents can carry out investigations and that industry has the clarity needed to innovate.
To set a consistent standard in line with the traditional rules for law enforcement access in the offline world, the group’s recommendations focus on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Passed in 1986 and not significantly updated since, it establishes standards for government access to email and other electronic communications in criminal investigations.
“Technology has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, but the law has not,” said Jim Dempsey, Vice President for Public Policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, who has led the coalition effort. “The traditional standard for the government to search your home or office and read your mail or seize your personal papers is a judicial warrant. The law needs to be clear that the same standard applies to email and documents stored with a service provider, while at the same time be flexible enough to meet law enforcement needs.”