Finally something Google, Microsoft, AOL, the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Americans for Tax Reform can agree on!
These companies, privacy advocates, and thinktanks are all members of the Digital Due Process coalition, which is pushing for Congress to overhaul the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) enacted in 1986, well before the Internet surge; the coalition maintains that it’s time for the ECPA to reflect the realities of communication as we know it now. Their principle mission is as follows:
To simplify, clarify, and unify the ECPA standards, providing stronger privacy protections for communications and associated data in response to changes in technology and new services and usage patterns, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public.
According to Digital Due Process, current legislation does not effectively address email, social networking, mobile location, cloud computing and fails to “provide protection suited to the way technology is used today.”
The lack of established law has left individual judges to the task of applying old law to new technological circumstances — and has resulted in a mishmash of decisions. Accordingly, we are all without a clear sense of what is permissible and prohibited by the law — and that, as any first year law student knows, makes for a right legal mess.
The Digital Due Process coalition isn’t going it alone, by the way. They have the support of at least one member of Congress, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), who recently saw a federal electronic privacy case sprout up in his own backyard. The Lower Merion School District is being sued by a student’s family who claims the district used school-provided laptops’ webcams to spy on students at home.
The school district admits they activated webcams on school-issued computers, but says it was only to locate lost or stolen laptops. Sen. Specter has used this case as an example to show his support for legislation to close any “gap” there might be between new technology and privacy laws.
Read more at CNET’s Tech coalition pushes rewrite of online privacy law.