Electronic Communications Privacy Reform should Clear the Senate without Amendment

Today, July 12, 2013, Digital Liberty and Americans for Tax Reform are proud to be a signatories of a letter in support of S. 607: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013.  We believe that the structure of the current Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) is unacceptable; particularly the current provision allowing law enforcement to seize and examine the content of emails older than 180 days stored of third-party servers without first obtaining a warrant.

However, as elaborated in today's letter, we are concerned about the possibility of amendments to S. 607 that would weaken Fourth Amendment protections in the digital space.  For example, an amendment to provide administrative agencies such as the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) with additional investigatory powers beyond the scope of civil investigations would result in damage to personal privacy.

As our letter states, "The sweeping change sought by the SEC would extend to all civil investigations conducted by the IRS, EPA, FCC, FEC, CFPB, and the whole panoply of regulatory agencies. It would reverse current law and practice, under which these and other government agencies cannot gain access to more recent communications content from a third party service provider without a warrant."

Digital Liberty believes that the traditional investigatory system, in which "a regulatory agency serves a subpoena on the target of its investigation requiring that the target turn over documents that respond to the subpoena" should remain in place to ensure a proper balance be maintained between the investigatory needs of administrative agencies and personal privacy.