ECPA at 25: How to Modernize the Law to Better Protect Electronic Privacy

Capitol Hill Briefing
October 19, 2011 9:00AM
B-338 Rayburn House Office Building
Featuring Julian Sanchez, Research Fellow, Cato Institute; Charles H. Kennedy, Senior Adjunct Fellow, TechFreedom; Partner, Wilkinson, Barker, Knauer, LLP; and Will DeVries, Policy Counsel, Google, Inc.; moderated by Brandon Arnold, Director of Government Affairs, Cato Institute.

In 1986, when cellular phones were brick-sized novelties and most Americans had never even heard of “electronic mail,” Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Yet after 25 years of innovation, ECPA has fallen badly out of step with the way Americans use information technology. Now, the law hinders innovation by failing to give sensitive e-mails and personal documents stored in the “cloud” the same strong protection they would enjoy under the Fourth Amendment if kept on a personal hard drive. Courts have struggled with how to regulate police access to the increasingly detailed location-tracking data generated by mobile devices. Perhaps most disturbing, the public and Congress have been left with little sense of how frequently law-enforcement demands access this sensitive information. Join us as a panel of experts discusses how to provide strong protection for the privacy of citizens — as well as clarity and consistency for both technology companies and law enforcement.

To take part in the discussion on Twitter, use hashtag #ECPA.