Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Friends Introduce Bipartisan ECPA Reform Bill

Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) have introduced bipartisan legislation that seeks to modernize the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The changes focus on providing better protections for those who utilize new technologies in the internet age like cloud computing and location-based services. Lofgren was one of a handful of lawmakers that strongly opposed SOPA and PIPA from the very beginning.

The bill's creators say that the law has not kept pace with these technologies and has not been effective at protecting people's rights to privacy and due process. The bill, H.R. 983, the Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act, would strengthen the privacy of Internet users and wireless subscribers from overbroad government surveillance by requiring law enforcement and intelligence agencies to get a warrant from a judge based on probable cause before intercepting or forcing the disclosure of electronics communications and geolocation data.

"Fourth Amendment protections don't stop at the Internet. Americans expect Constitutional protections to extend to their online communications and location data," Rep. Lofgren said. "Establishing a warrant standard for government access to cloud and geolocation provides Americans with the privacy protections they expect, and would enable service providers to foster greater trust with their users and international trading partners."

"As technology continues to evolve and improve, Congress must ensure that the Fourth Amendment rights of our citizens are protected. We live in a much different world than 1986," Rep. Poe said. "It's time for Washington to modernize this outdated legislation to catch up with the times. Technology may change, but the Constitution does not."

"In the past decade, advances in technology and the Internet have dramatically changed the way we communicate, live and work – and in this constantly evolving world, Congress must be a good steward of policy to ensure our laws keep up," said Rep. DelBene. "When current law affords more protections for a letter in a filing cabinet than an email on a server, it's clear our policies are outdated. This bill will update privacy protections for consumers while resolving competing interests between innovation, international competitiveness, and public safety."

Specifically the bill would require the government to jump through a few important hoops and also require service providers to safeguard private data:

•Require the government to obtain a warrant to access to wire or electronic communications content;
•Require the government to obtain a warrant to intercept or force service providers to disclose geolocation data;
•Preserve exceptions for emergency situations, foreign intelligence surveillance, individual consent, public information, and emergency assistance;
•Prohibit service providers from disclosing a user's geolocation information to the government in the absence of a warrant or exception;
•Prohibit the use of unlawfully obtained geolocation information as evidence;
•Provide for administrative discipline and a civil cause of action if geolocation information is unlawfully intercepted or disclosed.

You can read the particulars of the bill here (PDF).


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