DALLAS - The Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) commends the U.S. House of Representatives for today’s unanimous support passing reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a necessary step toward protecting Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights guarding against warrantless search and seizure of electronic data.
In “Securing Our Rights Through ECPA Reform,” IPI resident scholar of tax and innovation policy Bartlett D. Cleland writes that the 1986 legislation that extends government restrictions on telephone wire taps to transmissions of electronic data via computer and added a prohibition on access to stored electronic communications has a glaring problem—any stored data older than 180 days is left vulnerable to warrantless search by law enforcement.
“Many decades later and with computing power doubling 20 times over since then, obviously ECPA needs to be updated for today’s technology and practices,” said Cleland. “We applaud the U.S. House for taking the critical yet fundamental step to address the current state of ECPA to uphold our Fourth Amendment rights.”
“Treating data stored electronically as less valuable than analog data—that is, data stored in our homes or offices—exposes a clear discrimination against technology,” said Cleland. “The result amounts to a loophole in well-recognized protections of our privacy and personal security.”
In addition, updating ECPA also would enhance the ability of U.S. companies to compete effectively in the cloud computing market, and so that law enforcement can always access electronic communications in all appropriate situations.
It is now time for the U.S. Senate to act, said Cleland. “If the Fourth Amendment is to be a protection, and a cornerstone protection at that, our digital data must be recognized as our property, and our property rights must be protected.”
Bartlett D. Cleland, author of "Securing Our Rights Through ECPA Reform," is resident scholar of tax and innovation policy at the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), an independent, nonprofit public policy organization based in Dallas. He is available for interview by contacting Erin Humiston at (972) 874-5139, or firstname.lastname@example.org.