1011 S. Alamo, San Antonio TX 78210, 210-226-0965

The Electronics and Communications Privacy Act: It’s So 1986

In 1986, the year the Electronics and Communications Privacy Act (EPCA) was created, the Dewey Decimal System was the closest research tool we had to a Google Search Engine. Crumpled road maps, not GPS systems, helped drivers navigate the roads. Privacy laws are stuck in the snail-mail era, while millions of e-mails, texts and social media messages are exchanged largely unprotected. As privacy continues to be a concern in our electronic world, the 25-year-old EPCA could be getting a much-needed update, offering Americans important protection for their online communications.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee recently introduced the EPCA Amendent Act, a bill that would require the government to obtain a warrant before searching private e-mails and data stored on an Internet cloud. Calling the EPCA outdated, Leahy claims federal privacy laws must keep up with rapid changes in technology and law enforcement missions post-911. The bill also removes the 180-day rule that only requires a warrant to search e-mails that are unopened and stored for less than 180 days.

Privacy continues to be challenged, such as when the FBI collected 2,000 names and phone records between 2002-2006 claiming the calls being made related to possible terrorism emergencies. Or when Bradford Councilman, former vice president of then online bookseller Interloc, directed employees to write code that saved communications between customers and Amazon.com. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cautions that allowing law enforcement broad access to electronic records in the name of ‘cybersecurity’ is unwise.

Leave a Reply