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Tech Coalition Calling For New Electronic Privacy Laws

March 31, 2010

Google, Microsoft, eBay, AT&T, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are all part of a new consortium petitioning Congress to rework the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 in order to better protect Internet users from prying eyes.

The Digital Due Process coalition – a group whose membership also includes the American Library Association, Americans for Tax Reform, AOL, the Association of Research Libraries, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, Integra Telecom, Intel, Loopt, NetCoalition, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, and Salesforce.com – claims that the existing law went into effect before modern e-mail, social networking, and cell phones became widely used.

“Technology has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, but the law has not,” Jim Dempsey, Vice President for Public Policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a statement released on the Digital Due Process website. “The traditional standard for the government to search your home or office and read your mail or seize your personal papers is a judicial warrant. The law needs to be clear that the same standard applies to email and documents stored with a service provider, while at the same time be flexible enough to meet law enforcement needs.”

According to the group, the ECPA has been applied inconsistently to current technologies, causing confusion for users, service providers, and law enforcement officials alike. They claim that the ECA needs to be simplified, that its applications to online and cell phone technologies need to be clarified, and that privacy protection for tech users need to be better protected without eliminating the legal tools needed for government and law enforcement agencies to do their jobs.

The group’s efforts have reached Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, who according to various media reports has promised to start hearings on “much-needed updates” to the ECPA.

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