Today, the ACLU of Maine is joining a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the federal law that says the government can access your email and documents in the cloud without a warrant.
ECPA is one of the Internet’s most outdated laws – enacted in 1986, before most people had access to a home computer or email. While the public has been rightfully outraged over reports that the NSA accesses communications without a warrant, ECPA says that hundreds of other government agencies—like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies—can access many of our stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without getting a warrant from a judge. The law flies directly in the face of our Fourth Amendment values.
Here in Maine, the situation is much better. We led the effort last session to update Maine's privacy laws - and now, in Maine, the government has to get a warrant before accessing data created on or generated by your cell phone.
Down in D.C., bills to reform ECPA have gained huge support in recent months from both parties in Congress. However, legislation is now being blocked by a power grab from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is pushing for a special carve-out for regulatory agencies to get your documents from online providers without a warrant. The SEC carve-out would render ECPA reform meaningless.
That’s why we’re calling on the White House to break its silence and stand up for ECPA reform. We need President Obama to tell the SEC to back down in its demands for troubling new powers and make clear that the time for ECPA reform is now.
Today we ask you join us by signing this petition to the White House. It’s time for the President to join hundreds of tech companies, startups, advocates, and Members of Congress by supporting this commonsense, long overdue reform to ensure our privacy rights online.