A Step Toward Greater Privacy in the Cloud?

Lora Bentley

For 24 years, the Electronic Communications Act of 1986 has governed, among other things, how law enforcement can access and/or use archived voice mail, e-mail and other communications. But a coalition calling itself Digital Due Process says the law is way out of date and needs an overhaul. SiliconValley.com quotes Jim Dempsey, VP for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, this way:

1986 was light years away in Internet terms and now it's time for an update.


The CDT and other organizations making up the group - including Intel, eBay, AOL, AT&T and the American Civil Liberties Union, to name a few - want Congress to require law enforcement to have to obtain a search warrant or a court order before they can have access to e-mail or other information stored "in the cloud" via services like Google Docs, Yahoo Mail, or Amazon's storage services. Digital Due Process also proposes a court order be required before a person's movements can be tracked via their cell phone signals.


The move to storing everything in the cloud appears to be the primary driver for the proposed changes, the story says. The ECA currently requires a court order or a warrant to obtain e-mail less than 180 days old. Older e-mail is not protected because, as Dempsey pointed out, "In 1986, no one could imagine the storage capacity to keep e-mails longer than 180 days."


Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has already indicated he will schedule hearings on the changes proposed by Digital Due Process.


Though these proposals only address one aspect of cloud privacy that has been of concern, it is a start that most privacy advocates will welcome. What law enforcement will think, on the other hand, is a different story.

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