After public criticism of proposal that lets government agencies warrantlessly access Americans’ e-mail, Sen. Patrick Leahy says he will “not support” such an idea at next week’s vote, reports C/Net .
According to C/Net, Leahy’s proposal would have allowed over 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would have given the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.
“The rumors about warrant exceptions being added to ECPA are incorrect. Many have come forward with ideas for discussion before markup resumes on my bill to strengthen privacy protections under ECPA. As normally happens in the legislative process, these ideas are being circulated for discussion. One of them, having to do with a warrant exception, is one that I have not supported and do not support…”
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was enacted by the United States Congress to extend government restrictions on wire taps from telephone calls to include transmissions of electronic data by computer.
According to Wikipedia, under ECPA, it is relatively easy for a governmental agency to demand service providers hand over personal consumer data that has been stored on their servers.
For instance, email that is stored on a third party’s server for more than 180 days is considered by the law to be abandoned, and all that is required to obtain the content of the emails by a law enforcement agency, is a written statement certifying that the information is relevant to an investigation, with absolutely no judicial review required whatsoever.