The Electronic Communications Privacy Act – or ECPA as it is affectionately called – is scheduled for markup this Thursday, November 29th, in the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC). Originally enacted in 1986 when technology was less complex and less embedded in our lives, ECPA is again up for reauthorization. There is a need for ECPA reform given all the new technologies (ex. the Cloud) and applications (ex. GOOGLE) as well as new threats (ex., financial hackers and cyber-threats). But there are also discomforting rumors that new provisions in the bill could further threaten our privacy.
ACTION ALERT: Defend online privacy! Use this tool to send an email to your Senators or call them directly and ask them to preserve our Constitutional rights by updating ECPA.
DOES YOUR SENATOR SERVE ON THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE? Check this full list of senators on the Judiciary Committee and their office phone numbers. If your senator is on the list, please make a call!
THE MESSAGE: Senators should vote for more privacy protections and oppose amendments that would expose the public to greater monitoring and surveillance without the appropriate subpoenas or warrants.
Like a book’s cover, the title of this bill does not reflect the grave threats to privacy rights inherent to proposed “reforms.” The discussions are even more complex and confusing because stakeholders, like the American public, have initially only heard about potential amendments and other rumored amendments that may not be made. For further background and key provisions, visit our VanishingRights webpage. None of us have the full picture of this bill at this writing. (Bill number may be S. 1011.)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? The statute says the government can read a lot of your most personal communications and online activities without a warrant.
WHY ARE LIBRARIES CONCERNED? The library community has long standing principles committed to protecting the privacy of library users based upon the principle that the government and others have no right to access what people read – or now, where they go on the Internet. If law enforcement need such access, ALA argues that some kind of judicial due and process must be in place.
If ECPA reform does not pass in this Congress, which has little time left, it will be reintroduced in the next Congress. It is important to make our position clear now.
As argued by members of the Vanishing Rights Coalition: “We are simply asking for ALL of our personal information to have the SAME Constitutional protections regardless of how we choose to store it. “
Lynne works in the ALA Washington Office and is director of ALA's Office of Government Relations.