Americans for Tax Reform, ACLU Team Up for Internet Privacy

Internet spying

Should the government be snooping around you e-mails and cloud accounts? Given that there are constitutional safeguards in place to guarantee our privacy, one would think that the answer to this question would be obvious. But because federal laws haven’t been updated to cover online communication, law enforcement agencies haven’t bothered to obtain warrants for these searches. Additionally, efforts to pass SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA — bills that would have dire implications for online privacy and due process — are likely to resurface soon.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, and Laura Murphy, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, teamed up recently to discuss the issue of Internet privacy and to announce a joint effort to address this issue in an op-ed at Politico:

The essential elements of [the Electronic Communications Privacy Act] have not changed since 1986, and the courts have failed to keep pace, saying remarkably little about the Constitution’s application to new technology. Hence, the government can contend ECPA gives it the authority to ignore your privacy to an extent that would have shocked the framers of the Constitution.

Our proposal is simple: All private communications and documents stored online with service providers should have the same protections from unreasonable search and seizure as material locally stored. If government agencies want to read emails, they should go to court, show probable cause to believe a crime is being committed and obtain a search warrant just as they would for postal mail and telephone calls.
Today we announce the launch of Digital 4th, an effort by the Center for Democracy and Technology, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Tax Reform to give digital content the warrant protection the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires.

Norquist and Murphy explained that their effort to reform ECPA would not impede investigations into serious issues, such as perverse crimes or terrorism. However, they see real need to insure that Americans are extended the Fourth Amendment protections online that they have in dated forms of communication. In addition to Digital 4th, The Hill notes that a another group, Digital Due Process — which includes Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and the United States Chamber of Commerce — is also pushing to reform ECPA laws.

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, which is chaired by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), began hearings on ECPA reform this morning.

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