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Leahy Introduces Update to Electronic Communications Privacy Act

On the same day the House Judiciary Committee was talking
about updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), Senate
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy was already doing something about
it. Along with Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), Leahy introduced a bill to update
ECPA to protect digital privacy rights.

ECPA outlines the Fourth Amendment protections of stored
communications from unreasonable search and seizure, but was first passed in
1986 and has not been updated since 2001. "No one could have imagined just how
the Internet and mobile technologies would transform how we communicate and
exchange information today," Leahy said in a statement.  "Privacy laws
written in an analog era are no longer suited for privacy threats we face in a
digital world." 

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of
2013 would, among other things:

  1. "[E]stablishes a search warrant requirement in order
    for the government to obtain the content of Americans' emails and other
    electronic communications, when those communications are stored with a
    third-party service provider.
  2. "[E]liminates the outdated '180-day' rule that calls for different legal
    standards for the government to obtain email content depending upon the age of
    an email, and
  3. "[R]equires that the government notify an individual whose electronic
    communications have been disclosed within 10 days  of obtaining a search

Lee's office said the bill is backed by "50
privacy, civil liberties, civil rights and tech industry leaders."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.