ACLU urges Electronic Privacy Act overhaul

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has urged Congress to overhaul the country’s outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

Specifically, the ACLU has asked for a clause that would force law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before accessing e-mails and text messages.

“We need to upgrade our privacy laws as quickly as possible. While our technology has developed rapidly, our electronic privacy rights remain largely stuck in the ’80s. Clearly, a twenty-year-old electronic privacy law that was drafted and passed before the Internet age can hardly be called sufficient protection,” explained Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

“Eighty-two percent of Americans own cell phones which transmit location information every minute of every day, and countless e-mails and text messages are sent daily. [That is why] the ACLU, along with a broad coalition named Digital Due Process that includes AT&T, Google [and] Microsoft, has been urging Congress to make much-needed changes to ECPA.”

According to Murphy, Digital Due Process is also asking Congress to “modernize” the ECPA by robustly protecting all personal electronic information, instituting oversight and reporting requirements, barring illegally obtained information from being admissible in court and, finally, crafting reasonable exceptions to safeguard Americans’ privacy rights. 

“We cannot allow our technological advances to outpace our privacy protections,” said Murphy.

“As we rapidly live more of our lives online, it’s crucial that Congress create clear, bright lines for law enforcement when it comes to collecting information. Now more than ever, it’s critical that Americans receive comprehensive protection for their e-mails, texts and phone call records.”