By now, Americans are all too familiar with the ways hackers can gain unauthorized entry into their personal accounts online. But did you know that the government can currently seize many of your e-mails without even getting a warrant?
That’s the result of a gaping loophole in a nearly 30-year-old law known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Despite its name, ECPA doesn’t do as much to protect your information as you might think. E-mails that have been sitting in your inbox for more than six months can, under the law, be seized by federal officials with little more than a request to your e-mail provider. It’s a holdover from the time before cloud storage made it easy to archive your entire life online.
“As someone who has long supported and worked closely with the FTC, it was really disappointing to see them attack a bill that actually has a chance to improve Americans’ privacy,” said Chris Calabrese, vice president for policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology and a witness who testified at Wednesday’s hearing.