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ACLU Lens: Get Off My Cloud! Senate Bill Requires Warrants for Government to Spy on Email, Digital Communications

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November 29, 2012

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed an amendment to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Among its provisions, is a requirement that law enforcement agencies obtain a warrant before they can take a peek at your email, private social network posts and other information stored in the cloud.

ECPA would replace legislation dating back to 1986—when the Internet was still taking baby steps and privacy considerations were not paramount. Any way you slice it, it’s an analog measure in a digital world and badly in need of replacement.

“We believe law enforcement should use the same standard to search your inbox that they do to search your home,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU.

One reason greater clarity is needed on this front is that there is yet to be a consensus in the courts over constitutional protections for emails. One federal appeals court has said that they should be protected from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. But that ruling is not binding on other circuits.

For now, though, police only need a subpoena rather than a warrant. If you’ve got mail, you may not be the only one reading it. ECPA can help ensure you don’t surrender your constitutional guarantees whenever you’re online. The measure now moves to the full Senate and House.


Huffington Post, ECPA Amendment Passes
Wired, Senate Committee Approves Bill Requiring Warrants for Emails

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