Including heavyweights like Microsoft, Google, eBay, the ACLU, and AT&T, Digital Due Process is aiming to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, reports the New York Times. As they say, a 25-year-old law could not possibly be adequate to protect citizens in a world as fast-paced as today’s. The chief complaint is that currently, law enforcement agencies need only a judge-approved subpoena to search a suspect’s online data, rather than the full search warrant required for physical searches.
The rules for obtaining a subpoena are far looser that a search warrant, and as such they are much more readily handed out. But, argues Digital Due Process, searching somebody’s private Flickr account is no different than searching somebody’s 35mm photo album. Says Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology:
“The law needs to be clear that the same standard applies to email and
documents stored with a service provider, while at the same time be
flexible enough to meet law enforcement needs.”
The proposal has already secured the support of many outside the coalition, including politicians like Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Leahy wrote in a statement of support that “our federal electronic privacy laws are woefully outdated.”
As expected for any major piece of legislation, the coalition expects a long debate on the topic before any law is passed, and is anticipating some resistance from law enforcement. But with this kind of muscle behind it, from both liberal and libertarian groups, Digital Due Process might be able to kickstart the discussion and update the country’s privacy laws for this century.