Computing Profession

CFP: A Conversation on ECPA Reform in Congress

The Computer, Freedom & Privacy Conference logo
The logo of the Computers, Freedom & Privacy Conference.

What an excellent way to start day 2 of CFP! We've had a wonderful conversation with Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT, 3) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA,19) on reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Rep. Chaffetz started us off by stressing that geo-location is content. By triangulating location, an outsider can learn a significant amount about a person.  Both Reps. Chaffetz and Lofgren stated their opinion that the government should have to show probable cause to an impartial magistrate and receive a warrant before it can access this information. Rep. Chaffetz went on to emphasize that consumers need to be concerned about protecting privacy not only from law enforcement and the government but also from individuals who may try to gather data surreptitiously. Consumers may want to give up some of that information for the conveniences that such information can create, but each person should be able to make a personal decision as to what information others can access.

Rep. Lofgren reminded us that the Fourth Amendment counts even though we have an internet. Furthermore, while the third party doctrine may have been appropriate when created, in the age of the internet, a person sending an email does not consider doing so sharing the information with third parties. 

Both members stressed the need for movement by Congress on this issue, and indicated the necessity of a timeless approach that doesn't focus solely on existing technology but can be applied to technology developed in the future. As Rep. Lofgren said, we need a broad protection, just like the Fourth Amendment.

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