Blog of Rights

The NYT Demands DotRights. You Should Too.

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 4:06pm

The ACLU has recently been making a lot of noise about modernizing the laws that protect our online privacy. We believe that law enforcement should have to go to a judge and get a warrant that says it has probable cause to believe you've committed a crime before it can read your email, browse through your social networking account, or track your location. Right now, that's not the case. Digital information simply isn't getting the protection it deserves and that the framers would have wanted (if they knew what digital information was). That's why we're working so hard to raise visibility of this issue.

But we knew that ACLU noise, by itself, wasn't enough to get the law changed. We needed powerful allies in order to build momentum behind the issue and see that something got done. That's why we joined with companies like Google, AT&T and Microsoft to urge modernization of our online privacy laws. Now we're pleased to have another voice join the fray.

In its lead editorial today, The New York Times states:

Privacy is central to American law. And in 1986, Congress applied that principle to electronic communications by setting limits on law enforcement access to Internet and wireless technologies. It was a laudable law at the time, but cellphones were still oddities, the Internet was mostly a way for academics and researchers to exchange data and the World Wide Web that is an everyday part of most Americans' lives did not exist.

The law is no longer comprehensive enough to cover the many kinds of intrusions made possible by the advances of the past 24 years. In the absence of strong federal law, the courts have been adrift on many important Internet privacy issues. The law is not clear on when search warrants are required for the government to read stored e-mail, what legal standards apply to GPS technology that tracks people's whereabouts in real time and other critical questions.

We're proud that the editorial prominently mentioned the ACLU and the Digital Due Process campaign. We hope it will help spur Congressional action. But we also know that the most important voice Congress hears is yours.

We hope you'll take a minute to click here and send an email to your senators and your representative asking for an upgrade to your digital rights.

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