US Senate debates reforms to Electronic Communications Privacy Act

Senator Patrick Leahy, author of the original 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, has proposed several amendments to the ECPA in order to “keep pace with new technologies and new threats to our security”.

By “new technologies” he means location-based data from smartphones and other mobile devices.

By “new threats” he means you.

The new amendments would make clear that the government must follow due process in order to track a citizen’s cell phone or read their e-mail. Except, of course, in cases of national security. Then you are just SOL.

Within the current legal environment, which this bill does not address, if someone is deemed a security threat, federal agencies can use a National Security Letter in lieu of a warrant or probable cause to monitor their communications.

So what constitutes a security threat?

The distinction usually boils down like this: if you are a drug dealer, you have full constitutional protection for your private data. If you are a Muslim, you do not.

Muslim drug dealers are kind of a grey area.

Photo by Charles Fettinger. Used with permission under Creative Commons License 2.0

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