Did you know that hundreds of federal, state and local agencies can subpoena your personal emails and documents at any time without a warrant? FBI, DEA, IRS—you name it. No need for probable cause and a signature of a judge.
Americans are enjoying less and less Fourth Amendment protections in our digital age, in part because of the outdated Electronic Communications Protections Act (ECPA). Don’t let the name fool you. The bill was intended to protect our Constitutional rights, but now unfortunately serves as a tool for government to invade our privacy.
The ECPA was passed in 1986—nearly three decades ago, which we consider the technology dark ages. No one in 1986 was using email to regularly communicate with friends, family and coworkers. No one paid their bills online or stored digital photographs on their computers. And no one had smart phones that were susceptible to GPS tracking.
Today, more and more of our personal and sensitive information is transmitted online. But that doesn’t mean we are no longer protected against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced legislation for the 113th Congress that addresses our modern privacy needs.
“Privacy laws written in an analog era are no longer suited for privacy threats we face in a digital world,” Senator Leahy stated. “Three decades later, we must update this law to reflect new privacy concerns and new technological realities, so that our Federal privacy laws keep pace with American innovation and the changing mission of our law enforcement agencies.”
The proposed bill would amend the ECPA, requiring government to obtain a search warrant in order to demand the contents of Americans’ emails and other electronic communications that are stored with a third-party service provider. Additionally, individuals must be notified within ten days of the search warrant for their digital communications.
It’s time to put pressure on our lawmakers to uphold our Constitutional rights. Sign the official petition— Reform the ECPA: Tell the Government to Get a Warrant.