Privacy act well behind our technological times
Read the news, and you’re sure to see a story about NSA surveillance – a topic that has been the focus of Washington, D.C. and much of the world for the past months. While all eyes have been on the NSA, however, there is movement in Congress to address another critical area of concern in terms of privacy – reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986.
Enacted in 1986, this legislation is drastically outdated. It is imperative for our privacy and Colorado’s economy that these issues be addressed.
Despite considerable technology advances since ECPA was enacted in 1986, for the most part the law has remain unchanged. One of its main problems is that the law, as it currently stands, creates exceptions to the U.S. Constitution’s warrant requirement that don’t account for today’s technologies. These exceptions make it possible for law enforcement officials to potentially access email and online communications without a warrant, undermining privacy protections and constitutional guarantees.
Currently, ECPA is inconsistent, and threatens the enterprising nature of the Internet and the cloud computing industry. In the United States alone, this industry generates $46 billion in annual direct and indirect revenue.
In Colorado the tech industry is a bright spot in our economy. According to Cyberstates, our state employed 162,600 people in 2012 – accounting for 8.7 percent of all private sector workers in the state. This high concentration of tech employees made us the third ranking state for tech concentration in the nation in 2012.
And these are jobs that pay well: the tech payroll across the state in 2012 was $15.8 billion dollars, with tech workers earning an average wage of $97,100 – 98 percent higher than Colorado’s average private sector wage.
As the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer for Denver-based Handy Networks, I regularly deal with issues like ECPA that impact customers and employees. ECPA is outdated, and now is the time to bring legislation from 1986 into the Internet age, establishing consistent privacy protections for all types of electronic communications.
Law enforcement should be required to obtain a warrant before accessing our private information that has been stored in the cloud for longer than 180 days. With a warrant requirement, we can ensure the Constitutional right of due process – a right that is guaranteed to all Americans. At the same time, this will help law enforcement officials do their job more effectively.
Congressman Polis is the leading Democrat on bi-partisan legislation to address ECPA’s needed reforms. Working with Republicans Kevin Yoder of Kansas and Tom Graves of Georgia, Representative Polis’s legislation has more than 200 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is imperative that this legislation move forward in the House.
Senators Leahy and Lee last year introduced the ECPA Amendments Act in the Senate. That legislation has moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting further action in the Senate.
The move to update ECPA is gaining momentum. ECPA is an issue that all Coloradans should care about, and we at Handy Networks applaud Congressman Polis for his leadership on this issue and urge the House of Representatives to move this legislation forward.