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The Bill Our Privacy Desperately Needs in the Digital Age

Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced a sweeping, bipartisan measure to modernize our electronic communication privacy laws. Lee and Leahy have long been champions of reform, advancing measures such as the Email Privacy Act. The ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 goes well beyond that effort and proposes important updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) – a law Senator Leahy helped draft more than 30 years ago – to address the reality of communications in the modern digital age.

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Broad Support for the ECPA Modernization Act

Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced a sweeping, bipartisan measure to modernize our electronic communication privacy laws, the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017. There is broad support for this bill and we have collected statements that demonstrate that support.

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An Obscure Case with Big Implications for Privacy

The government has just fired its latest salvo in a long running effort to circumvent privacy protections for electronic communications. An obscure case of civil fraud may have dramatic implications for when and how the government can access your emails, texts, and photos held online. CDT jointly filed a brief in the case, Securities and Exchange Commission v. North Star Finance LLC, opposing government efforts to obtain email content in a civil case with just a subpoena to an email service provider.

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Alexa, is Law Enforcement Listening?

Just days after Christmas, news broke that police in Bentonville, Arkansas, had issued a warrant to Amazon to turn over audio recordings from an Echo as part of a hot tub murder investigation. The sensational story brought with it a slate of headlines about new privacy concerns posed by the connected devices and the Internet of Things, but it also demonstrates how unclear legal standards and aggressive law enforcement interest in data can undermine the physical sanctity of our homes and inner lives.

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Washington Court Should Find ECPA Unconstitutional

ECPA allows the government to prevent service providers from notifying their customers that the government has accessed a customer’s private electronic data stored in the cloud. This egregious conduct not only violates the First and Fourth Amendment, it compromises public trust in cloud computing. That’s why we filed a brief asking the court to declare Section 2705(b) of ECPA unconstitutional.

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Expansion of Secret National Security Letters – A Poison Pill for Email Privacy

Initially meant as a very limited investigative tool in financial cases, national security letter (NSL) authority has morphed into a frequently used, and abused, way by which the FBI can secure telephone records in terrorism or espionage cases without going to a judge. The FBI is pushing for a dramatic expansion of NSL authority, and is trying to sneak it into non-controversial email privacy legislation or a “must-pass” intelligence spending bill.

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At Last: EPCA Reform Bill to Move Forward with Markup

Today, the House Judiciary Committee finally moved forward with a markup of the Manager’s Substitute to the 1986 Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699), which will amend ECPA so that, with limited exceptions, law enforcement officials will be required to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before searching and seizing data stored in the cloud. It is supported by more than 50 civil society groups, trade associations and companies big and small. CDT hopes that this vote is the beginning of a broader ECPA reform and ultimately new privacy protections for every American.

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A Response to Law Enforcement Concerns with the Email Privacy Act

The Email Privacy Act, H.R. 699, is finally on its way to markup in the House Judiciary Committee. We’re in the home stretch, and we’ve waited long enough. Congress must pass, and the President must sign, the Email Privacy Act. However, some groups continue to express concern that the Act will pose too great a burden to law enforcement. One of those groups is the FBI Agents Association. We offer clear rebuttals to their concerns.

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Four Myths and Realities: Civil Agencies, Subpoenas, and Digital Content

There is near-universal agreement that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is in serious need of reform to offer real protections to our digital communications. One of the only barriers that remains is the misguided and dangerous calls from civil agencies for an exception to the warrant requirements reform would establish. Here we debunk the most prevalent myths civil agencies are peddling.

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