Day of action to demand ECPA reform

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by Adwoa Masozi

Today, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee joins a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a nearly 30 year old law that allows the government to access your email and documents stored in the cloud without a warrant.

In a previous story written by Alok Bhatt about the need to reform the ECPA, he described:

“The severely outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), enacted in 1986 to restrict government access to then-limited digital data, allows warrantless access to messages stored for over 180 days. In a new era of cloud computing, however, this obsolete provision fails to uphold modern expectations of privacy,”

The culprits of Fourth Amendment abuses go far beyond the National Security Agency (NSA). The public has been rightfully outraged over reports that the NSA captures and stores communications without a warrant, but the proposed ECPA reforms would not limit the NSA’s powers.

Instead, ECPA reform would keep hundreds of other government agencies (like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies) from accessing your stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without securing a warrant from a judge—as they do routinely under the inadequate ECPA standards that Congress has failed to update for nearly 30 years.

Bills to reform ECPA have gained support from both parties in Congress. However, legislation is now being blocked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is pushing for a special carve-out for regulatory agencies to get your documents from online providers without a warrant. The SEC carve-out would neuter ECPA reform.

That’s why BORDC, along with the rest of  the Digital Due Process coalition–andSanta Claus–are calling on the White House to break its silence and stand up for ECPA reform. We need President Obama to tell the SEC to back down in its demands for troubling new powers and make clear that the time for ECPA reform is now.

Join us by signing this petition to the White House. It’s time for the President tojoin hundreds of tech companies, startups, advocates, and Members of Congress by supporting this common sense, long overdue reform to begin restoring online privacy.

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