Sunday, 4 April 2010

USA - Digital Due Process coalition and e-privacy

There have been many reports of several US technology corporations (including AT&T, AOL, eBay, Google, Intel, Microsoft and SalesForce.com), academics and privacy advocates (including the ACLU, CDT and EFF) banding together to form an alliance called Digital Due Process, in order to campaign for the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act 1986 to be updated for the internet age.

But there haven't been many links to what I'd like to draw attention to - a paper for DDP: The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986: Principles for Reform, by US lawyer J Beckwith Burr of US firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP, which analyses the legal position in relation to the ECPA, and the rationale for reform to ensure US Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures extends to all communications however stored.

A major point DDP make is that currently email privacy in the USA differs depending on whether you store it on your hard drive or "in the cloud" (i.e. webmail like HotMail, YahooMail or Gmail) - and it shouldn't.

Hard copy letters and email anywhere should be treated in exactly the same way as far as government ability to read it is concerned. Other data is increasingly stored in the cloud too, and its privacy protection needs to be considered. Clearly the DDP have more than an eye on the development of cloud computing and the concomitant modernisation of privacy laws so as to continue to be fit for purpose.

Similarly, with the explosion in mobile phone (cellphone) use location data privacy is increasingly important. And the growth of social networking also needs to be taken into account.

Given the heavyweight membership of the coalition, hopefully the US government will be taking matters forward on this and perhaps other related fronts.

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