End of Privacy: Senate Bill Rewrite Lets Feds Read Your Email
The United States senator from Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has recently performed a 180 degree turn on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which aims to endow the federal government with an unprecedented degree of access to electronic communications – emails, cloud storage, etc.
Leahy, who also had a major hand in Republican senator Lamar Smith’s the SOPA bill with his self-authored Protect IP Act (PIPA) – currently in benchmarked status – originally formulated the ECPA to grant enhanced protection for American emails from the potentially prying eyes of the government. The reworked bill required the procurement of search warrants by law enforcement in order to gain access to electronic correspondence, as well as updating a few outdated rules that applied in the 1980s, but not so much today.
Apparently; however, the National Sheriff’s Association and National District Attorney’s Association balked at this toughening of the laws, which would restrict their access; prompting Leahy to do a strange 180 degree turn and essentially unleash the floodgates. In the new version of the bill, over 22 law enforcement agencies and government institutions (such as the Federal Reserve and the Health Review Commission!) would now be able to read your email, peruse personal files on Google Docs, check out stuff saved on cloud servers, etc – all without the need for a judge-granted search warrant; a mere subpoena would do. ISPs will not be legally able to notify you if they’ve been approached by law enforcement for access to your accounts for up almost to two weeks.
With the explosion of cloud-based services, the successful passing of the updated bill could, at the very least, have an adverse effect on the large-scale migration to virtual servers and cloud networks, and all the new services that are poised to take advantage of it. Considering that your personal materials may only stay personal if you store them on your home-based hard-drive, to the detriment of online storage facilities, there could be a hard-fought battle looming, on the scale of the Wikipedia blackout in response to SOPA/PIPA. You’ll know by Thursday after Thanksgiving, when Leahy’s bill has been fully reworked and presented.