This week, our federal online privacy law turns 25. The ACLU is hosting a blog series that will address some of the many reasons why the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) is in need of an upgrade! Spread the word using #UpdateECPA, and to learn more about your dotRights, visit www.aclu.org/ecpa .
We were planning to do a blog post every day to draw attention to Electronic Communication Privacy Act's (ECPA) anniversary but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) gave us an anniversary present and we couldn't resist doing an extra one to crow about it.
The senator announced today that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, will be marking up a bill to reform ECPA by the end of the year. In layman's terms, that means the powerful Judiciary Committee is committed to taking up an ECPA reform bill and make sure that it gets a full vote in the committee.
Senator Leahy said today on the floor:
Today, the many rapid advances in technology that we have witnessed make this key privacy law more important than ever if we are to ensure the right to privacy. Just in the past few months, we have witnessed significant data breaches involving Sony and Epsilon that impact the privacy of millions of American consumers. We are also learning that smartphones and other new mobile technologies may be using and storing our location and other sensitive information, posing new risks to privacy.
When I led the effort to write the ECPA 25 years ago, no one could have contemplated these and other emerging threats to our digital privacy. But, today, this law is significantly outdated and out-paced by rapid changes in technology and the changing mission of our law enforcement agencies after September 11. At a time in our history when American consumers and businesses face threats to privacy like no time before, we must renew the commitment to the privacy principles that gave birth to the ECPA a quarter century ago. That is why I am working to update this law to reflect the realities of our time.
Before the end of the calendar year, the Judiciary Committee will consider legislation that I have drafted to update the ECPA and to bring this law fully into the digital age.
Advancing ECPA reform out of committee is a key step toward getting reform efforts passed into law. Of course we're very pleased about it but really it is a credit to all our members and supporters who have taken the step of telling Congress that they want to see ECPA brought into the 21st Century.