Protecting Email Privacy Rights

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Posted by Eric Seum on Monday, November 16th, 2015, 3:59 PM PERMALINK

In an article from Iowa newspaper, The Gazette, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and Involta Founder and CEO Bruce Lehrman discuss email privacy rights, ECPA reform, and its opposition by the SEC and The FTC.

“The SEC and FTC oppose this urgently needed reform, and credit is due Senator Grassley for bringing representatives of both agencies before the committee to explain their position. The witnesses acknowledged their agencies believed they had under ECPA the authority to order warrantless searches. And they insisted that authority was essential to their ability to investigate ‘fraud and other unlawful conduct.’ And yet neither witness could provide an example when their agencies had used that authority to help solve a case. Not a single one. And this in a year the SEC claims has seen a record number of successful investigations.”

Read the full article here

Not too long ago, U.S. citizens could take comfort in the safety that the fourth amendment provides against unreasonable search and seizures. However, in an ever-growing technological age, our personal lives are becoming anything but private.

The fourth amendment protects citizens from invasive searches of our homes, offices, mail, and other effects without a search warrant and probable cause, yet some government officials feel these laws don’t apply when it comes to our internet presence. Due to a loophole in a long outdated law, some government agencies claim they don’t need a reason to dig through our online history, and their adamantly fighting to keep it that way.

The law in question is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The law was created to protect the privacy of emails from government intrusion for 180 days. That was 1986, nearly 30 years ago, when online communication was merely on the horizon, a technology unused by many. The law made sense at the time. There was email, most of which were read, printed out, and dragged to the trash bin, gone forever. No one could have guessed the role online communication would play in our lives today. It’s hard to even imagine how the world would function as it is without it. Much of our lives are out there in cyberspace. Our texts and tweets, our photos, finances, and all sorts of personal information can be found with a few clicks of the mouse. All this information is up for grabs by patiently waiting government agencies.

The fact is, the majority of Americans cannot or do not get rid of all their online interactions as the 180 day limit approaches. There is simply too much important information to get rid of and restore every six months. Yet the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintain opposition to any sort of reform that would correct this flaw in the system.Luckily, Congress has taken notice of this antiquated and broken law.

 “The truth is that no agency of the government needs to ignore Fourth Amendment protections to investigate and prosecute lawbreaking. They never have and they never will. The ECPA reforms pending in Congress ensure that government can enforce its laws and regulations without violating the privacy of law-abiding citizens. There is as close to a political consensus in support of ECPA reform as is possible in this era of gridlock and polarization. Most Americans agree their email ought to have the same assurance of privacy as their phone conversations. So do most members of Congress. The candidates for President should make clear they do, too. Legislation is pending, hearings have been held, and the opposition exposed as unnecessary and unfair. It’s time for Congress to stop executive branch opportunists from blocking this consensus and expanding their powers at the expense of the Iowans’ liberties.”

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