Agencies Say They Need Access to Americans’ Emails Without a Warrant

Agencies Say They Need Access to Americans’ Emails Without a Warrant

Agencies Say They Need Access to Americans’ Emails Without a Warrant

A bi­par­tis­an bid to re­form an elec­tron­ic-pri­vacy law has the sup­port of the tech com­munity and the White House, but fed­er­al law en­force­ment of­fi­cials tell Con­gress the changes would hamper civil pro­sec­u­tion.

Civil law en­force­ment agen­cies like the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion and the Se­cur­it­ies and Ex­change Com­mis­sion would not be able to ob­tain crit­ic­al in­form­a­tion if the law were changed to re­quire crim­in­al war­rants for ac­cess to data stored on cloud ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses from those agen­cies testi­fy­ing in front of the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Wed­nes­day.

The law en­force­ment of­fi­cials were re­act­ing to bills from Sens. Mike Lee and Patrick Leahy, and Reps. Kev­in Yo­der and Jared Pol­is, that aim to up­date the Elec­tron­ic Com­mu­nic­a­tions Pri­vacy Act, or ECPA.

In its cur­rent form, ECPA pro­tects emails from gov­ern­ment snoop­ing for 180 days. When the law was ini­tially drawn up in 1986, email pro­viders routinely re­moved emails from their serv­ers a month or two after they were de­livered; users would gen­er­ally down­load the mes­sages they in­ten­ded to keep. Whatever re­mains on an email serv­er after 180 days is fair game for gov­ern­ment to ac­cess, with just a sub­poena—not a war­rant.

Today, ubi­quit­ous cloud-based email sys­tems like Gmail, which of­fer giga­bytes of stor­age for free, al­low the av­er­age user to keep his or her mes­sages—and cal­en­dars, con­tacts, notes, and even loc­a­tion data—on a pro­vider’s serv­ers in­def­in­itely.

The ECPA Amend­ments Act would re­quire law en­force­ment to get a war­rant to ac­cess serv­er-hos­ted in­form­a­tion, no mat­ter how old, and would re­quire the gov­ern­ment to no­ti­fy an in­di­vidu­al that his or her in­form­a­tion was ac­cessed with­in 10 days, with cer­tain ex­cep­tions.

But law en­force­ment of­fi­cials ex­pressed op­pos­i­tion to some of the bill’s pro­posed changes, ar­guing that its re­quire­ment for crim­in­al war­rants could leave civil lit­ig­at­ors without ac­cess to im­port­ant elec­tron­ic in­form­a­tion.

 

Read full story: http://www.nationaljournal.com/s/73094/agencies-say-they-need-access-ame...