Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Leahy's Email Privacy Bill does 180

Last May, Senator Pat Leahy (D, Vt.) introduced the "Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2011" (PDF), ostensibly to ensure that police and government agencies needed a search warrant to access private conversations and information about locations of mobile devices.  The bill was, in part, a response to arguments from Obama's Dept. of Justice that "warrantless tracking should be permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their, or at least their cell phones', previous locations."

As the bill nears its scheduled vote next week, its come out that the bill has been dramatically rewritten.  Rather than protecting privacy, the revised bill specifically allows more than 22 Federal agencies "to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant."  The revised bill would also expand the powers of the FBI and Homeland Security "to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge."
Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said requiring warrantless access to Americans' data "undercuts" the purpose of Leahy's original proposal. "We believe a warrant is the appropriate standard for any contents," he said. 
Leahy is said to have been pressured by groups representing police and district attorneys, as well as some strong politicking from the US. Justice Dept., to limit online privacy protections, or at least include major exemptions.  The revised bill does retain some protections from local and state police actions, but critics say it opens the floodgates for misuse at the Federal level.

Source -  Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrantsCNet News

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