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Government Surveillance

“Not Without a Warrant:” Left/Right Coalition Launches Campaign to Enhance Privacy

Washington—Today the Center for Democracy & Technology and a coalition of organizations from across the political spectrum launched a campaign urging Congress to update a 1986 law that currently allows the government to read private email and track individuals through their mobile phones.

The government should have to get a warrant from a judge before conducting electronic surveillance, just as it needs a warrant to tap ordinary phone calls or search our homes, argues the coalition, which includes ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, TechFreedom, and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

At issue is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 1986 federal statute that specifies standards for government surveillance. Under ECPA, the government argues it does not need a warrant to read private email or documents stored in the Internet "cloud" or to track people using their mobile phone.

"If the government wants to enter your house or seize your papers, the Constitution says it needs to get a warrant from a judge.  That same rule should apply to all the email and private photos and documents you store online," said Jim Dempsey, CDT's Vice President for Public Policy.  "And before the government turns your mobile phone into a tracking device, it should go to a judge and get a warrant.  That’s our best protection against government overreaching."

The petition to update ECPA can be found here: