ECPA

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SEC Blocking Update to Electronic Privacy Laws

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:36pm
During the long, hard fight to bring the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) into the 21st century, advocates have run into the most unlikely of opponents: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Yes, the SEC—the agency charged with regulating the securities industry—has brought the ECPA update to a screeching halt. Yesterday the ACLU, along with the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform and the Center for Democracy and Technology, sent the agency a letter calling them out on their opposition.
Crop of photo by Arlo Bates via Flickr

Utah Enacts Significant Location and Communications Privacy Bill

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 3:53pm

On Monday, Utah became the first state to enact legislation simultaneously protecting location information and electronic communications content, regardless of age, from government access—ensuring that state and local law enforcement can only access…

Crop of image by afagen via Flickr

Dear Mr. President: Walk the Walk on Big Data

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:28pm

In the wake of the NSA scandals and daily corporate privacy invasions, the president asked one of his senior advisors, John Podesta, to perform a quick 90-day review of “big data” (corporate jargon for privacy) and lay out what next steps his administration…

Tell the White House to Fix ECPA and Protect Our Electronic Privacy

Tell the White House to Fix ECPA and Protect Our Electronic Privacy

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 10:03am

This might come as a shock to you, but the privacy of many of your electronic communications has a six-month expiration date.

The angry email you wish you didn't send last spring where you said those unflattering things. That text message you…

Why You Should be 203 Percent Behind ECPA Reform

Why You Should be 203 Percent Behind ECPA Reform

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 9:46am

There's a wave of transparency reports sweeping the nation. In recent months a plethora of companies – including Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter – have released these detailed documents, which describe the number of requests they get from…

Destroying the Right to Be Left Alone

Destroying the Right to Be Left Alone

By Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Matthew Harwood, Media Strategist, ACLU at 10:37am

The NSA Isn't the Only Government Agency Exploiting Technology to Make Privacy Obsolete

VanishingRights.com: A Conduit for Change

VanishingRights.com: A Conduit for Change

By Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:59pm

As the scope and depth of NSA’s spying continues to grow—and the ACLU continues to fight for Americans’ privacy—we cannot forget about similar privacy violations committed by state and local law enforcement. Today the ACLU and other advocacy…

If the Government Is Tracking Your Location or Reading Your Email, Would You Ever Know?

If the Government Is Tracking Your Location or Reading Your Email, Would You Ever Know?

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 12:36pm

Court rulings unsealed last week in Washington show for the first time a behind-the-scenes legal battle over when the government should have to tell you that it's tracking your location and reading your email. These documents—which came to light…

AP Phone Records Scandal Highlights a Broader Problem: Lack of Checks and Balances on Government Access to Records

AP Phone Records Scandal Highlights a Broader Problem: Lack of Checks and Balances on Government Access to Records

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 11:36am

Last week we learned that the Department of Justice, in an unprecedented intrusion on the work of journalists, had obtained records for twenty telephone numbers belonging to the Associated Press or its reporters, spanning April and May 2012. The telephone records obtained do not include the content of phone calls, but they likely reveal the phone number of each and every caller on those lines for a period of weeks and, therefore, the identity of scores of confidential media sources.

The seizure of these records came to light only because the government has a special set of guidelines that require it to notify any media organization of a subpoena for its records within (at most) 90 days. The AP appears to have learned of the seizure of its phone records, albeit after the fact, only because of this special policy.

The notice given to the AP has generated a healthy debate over the limits on the government’s authority to acquire our telephone and internet records. But what if you aren’t a media organization and, therefore, do not benefit from the special government policy entitling you to notice when the government obtains your telephone or internet records? What information can the government get about you, and is it even required to tell you when it does so?

FBI Documents Suggest Feds Read Emails Without a Warrant

FBI Documents Suggest Feds Read Emails Without a Warrant

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:31am

New documents from the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ offices paint a troubling picture of the government’s email surveillance practices. Not only does the FBI claim it can read emails and other electronic communications without a warrant—even after a federal appeals court ruled that doing so violates the Fourth Amendment—but the documents strongly suggest that different U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country are applying conflicting standards to access communications content (you can see the documents here).

Last month, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the ACLU received IRS documents indicating that the agency’s criminal investigative arm doesn’t always get a warrant to read Americans’ emails. Today we are releasing these additional documents from other federal law enforcement agencies, reinforcing the urgent need for Congress to protect our privacy by updating the laws that cover electronic communications.

The FBI and Electronic Communications: Where’s the Warrant?

The documents we received from the FBI don’t flat out tell us whether FBI agents always get warrants, but they strongly suggest that they don’t.

In 2010, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in United States v. Warshak that the government must obtain a probable cause warrant before compelling email providers to turn over messages to law enforcement. But that decision only applies in the four states covered by the Sixth Circuit, so we filed our FOIA request to find out whether the FBI

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