THE BLOG

Not Without A Warrant

09/27/2011 04:00 pm ET | Updated Nov 27, 2011
  • Leslie Harris President and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology

Today a remarkable "left/right" coalition that includes ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, TechFreedom, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, and my own organization, the Center for Democracy & Technology, has launched a campaign urging Congress to require warrants when the government comes calling for your email, online records, photos and the like. Or seeks a record of your every move from your mobile phone carrier.

If the government wants to enter your house or seize your papers, the Constitution states that it needs a warrant approved by a judge. You've seen this a million times on TV cop shows: "Knock, knock, let us in, we have a warrant." And that is how it should be... except it is a whole other situation when the government wants to read your private email, access work you have stored in the cloud or to track your every move using your mobile phone.

At a time when nearly every aspect of daily life touches "the cloud" it is difficult to realize that this intimate mosaic of information we have pieced together online is all too vulnerable to government snooping simply because technology has outpaced the 25-year-old law that specifies the standards for government surveillance.

At issue is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Under ECPA the government argues that it does not need a warrant from a judge to read your email, access your photos in an online photo gallery or turn your phone into a mobile tracking device. ECPA needs to be reformed to make sure that anytime the government wants to peek at your online photos, read your emails, or track your mobile phone it should follow the same rules as it does offline, stand before a judge and get a warrant.

If you do one thing to protect your rights online I urge to you support this campaign by signing the petition and send a strong message to Congress.

If a coalition of "strange bedfellows" can find common ground and push for ECPA reform, Congress should be able to do it as well. Sign the petition; pass on the message. Tell Congress to bring the Constitution's Fourth Amendment into the digital age.

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