House Hears Testimony On Proposed Updates To Privacy Law

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

House Hears Testimony On Proposed Updates To Privacy Law

WASHINGTON - The
House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and
Civil Liberties held a hearing today on updating the out-of-date
Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ECPA became law in 1986 –
long before the Web was invented – and has not been properly updated to
reflect the vast technological advances that have occurred since its
passage. The American Civil Liberties Union, along with a broad
coalition named Digital Due Process that includes AT&T, Google,
Microsoft, the Center for Democracy and Technology and Electronic
Frontier Foundation, has been urging Congress to make much-needed
changes to ECPA.

“We
need to upgrade our privacy laws as quickly as possible,” said Laura W.
Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “While our
technology has developed rapidly, our electronic privacy rights remain
largely stuck in the ‘80s. Clearly, a twenty-year-old electronic
privacy law that was drafted and passed before the Internet age can
hardly be called sufficient protection. We hope this hearing will set
in motion congressional action to make updating the Electronic Privacy
Act a priority this session.”
 
Eighty-two
percent of Americans own cell phones which transmit location
information every minute of every day, and countless e-mails and text
messages are sent daily. Digital Due Process is asking that ECPA be
updated to require government officials to obtain a warrant based on
probable cause before allowing access to any of those electronic
records, just as they have always had to do for similarly sensitive
personal papers.
 
The
ACLU believes the efforts being urged by the coalition to update ECPA
are critical first steps, but is asking Congress to make even further
changes to the law. Specifically, the ACLU is asking that Congress
modernize ECPA to robustly protect all personal electronic information,
institute oversight and reporting requirements, bar illegally obtained
information from being admissible in court and, finally, craft
reasonable exceptions to safeguard Americans’ privacy rights. 
 
“We
cannot allow our technological advances to outpace our privacy
protections,” said Murphy. “As we rapidly live more of our lives
online, it’s crucial that Congress create clear, bright lines for law
enforcement when it comes to collecting information. Now more than
ever, it’s critical that Americans receive comprehensive protection for
their e-mails, texts and phone call records.”
 
The ACLU’s statement for the record submitted to the subcommittee is here: www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/aclu-statement-record-house-judiciary-committee-subcommittee-hearing-electron

More information on the ACLU’s work with online privacy can be found at: www.dotrights.org and www.aclu.org/ecpa

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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