The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 is an ancient law that governs the privacy of the files you keep on servers, including your webmail and other private stuff. The 1986 law assumes that any file left on a server for more than six months is abandoned, and gives law enforcement the power to retrieve it without a warrant. Many attempts have been made to update this, but the nation's law enforcement apparatus always kicks up a huge fuss when anyone proposes closing this glaring loophole.
Now there's a new, bipartisan bill from Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) that will update electronic privacy law for the bold world of the 1990s (at least!). The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Rainey Reitman has more:
We’re pleased to see Representatives Lofgren, Poe, and DelBene take up this crucial issue, but the current draft isn’t a perfect solution to all ECPA woes. For example, the bill has room for improvement on the issue of evidence suppression for email content collected without a warrant. We hope this already promising bill can be further improved through amendments.
By introducing this reform bill, the 113th Congress has an opportunity to enact powerful protections for everyday Internet users – which would be particularly appreciated, since all too often Congress uses its power to try to undermine our digital civil liberties.
If you agree that the government shouldn’t be snooping through inboxes without a warrant, then please sign our petition, which will automatically send an email to Congress demanding they reform ECPA.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.