The Electronic Frontier Foundation is celebrating the White House's openness to public petitions with a plea to update the nation's electronic privacy law, which last saw major revision in 1986, and which has some pretty big loopholes:
The government should be required to go to a judge and get a warrant before it can read our email, access private photographs and documents we store online, or track our location using our mobile phones. Please support legislation that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to require warrants for this sensitive information and to require the government to report publicly on the use of its surveillance powers.
ECPA was forward-looking when it was signed into law in October of 1986, considering that the World Wide Web hadn't even been invented yet. But now, ECPA has become outdated. The privacy standards that it applies to new technologies are unclear and weak. For example, the law doesn't specifically address cell phone location tracking at all, and it allows the government to seize most emails without ever having to go to a judge. Meanwhile, no one is perfectly sure how it applies to newer online services like social networks and search engines.
This gap between the law and the technology ultimately leaves us all at risk. Add your name now to sign the petition supporting ECPA reform, and feel free to add a personalized intro to the text below that will be sent to your legislators before the 25th anniversary of ECPA.
A beautiful essay in the London Review of Books traces the twists and turns of the Robin Hood story over time, to the era of austerity, where “robbing from the rich and giving to the poor” takes on a completely different complexion.
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