ECPA, The Email Communications Privacy Act, will be discussed in U.S. Congress on December 1, 2015. In advance of this we wanted to provide an overview of ECPA – what it is and how we’d like to see it reformed.
What is it?
ECPA sets the rules for when police and the government can read our email, look at our photos and access other content that’s stored in the cloud.
ECPA has remained unchanged since it was passed in 1986 — despite the incredible technological advances of recent decades.
Why does it need reform?
ECPA has remained unchanged since 1986, which has left our communications open to unwarranted government intrusion.
As the law is currently written, government and law enforcement officials can access personal communications and documents in remote storage in the cloud with merely a subpoena, meaning no prior consideration from a judge is necessary. This massive vulnerability in privacy rights opens the door for government snooping and complete disregard to our Fourth Amendment rights.
Last Congress, great strides were made to update ECPA for the digital age, but reform did not come to function. Congress must act this year to appropriately protect Americans’ privacy and property so that our rights on the Internet will finally be equivalent to the physical world.
We’re not the only ones calling for ECPA reform. As reported in a Washington Post article, 77% of voters polled believe “a warrant should be required to access emails, photos, and other private communications stored online.” Furthermore, 86% of these voters said they believed ECPA should be updated, and 53% expressed that they’d support a candidate in support of “strengthening online privacy.” It’s important to note the poll was conducted by a group advocating for the law to be changed, as the law is up for debate on December 1. You can read the full Washington Post article here: “The government often doesn’t need a warrant to get your e-mails. But most think it should.”