“Given how far the internet has come in the past few years, it might be surprising to find that the most recent law requiring privacy standards for electronic communications is from 1986,” an article in Law.com’s Law Technology News this morning reports – “Several of the largest technology and internet companies have joinned forces with conservative and liberal organizations in a show of solidarity for a proposed amendment to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
In a July 12th. letter to the Senate, the article reported, companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Intel, Adobe, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Yahoo urged passage of the amendment, which would modernize the ECPA and increase the level of protection given to emails and electronic communications from the government.
“Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) proposed amendment would force government agencies to get a warrant before they could access any emails or electronic communications stored on third-party servers, regardless of when they were received,” the article continued, quoting the letter’s saying "American consumers and businesses large and small are increasingly taking advantage of the efficiencies offered by web-based email servers and cloud-based storage and computing. Removing uncertainty about the level of legal protection afforded such information will encourage consumers and companies, including those outside the U.S., to utilize these services."
The article also says “the letter also expressed opposition to a proposal from the Securities and Exchange Commission granting the agency an exemption from the amendment. In an April 24 letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy, SEC Commissioner Mary Jo White cautioned that the amendment would have a "significant negative impact" on the SEC's enforcement capabilities. White argued that getting a subpoena or warrant for emails every single time was impractical and would encourage individuals or entities under investigation to delete incriminating emails. Instead, White proposed preserving the SEC's ability to get emails directly from third-party providers, "in appropriate circumstances."