Senate committee limits government electronic surveillance
The committee votes to require search warrants for electronic records stored for more than 180 days
IDG News Service - A U.S. Senate committee has approved legislation that would give more privacy protection from government surveillance for data stored in the cloud.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a voice vote Thursday, approved the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) Amendments Act, a bill that would amend a 27-year-old law that governs law enforcement access to electronic records. The bill would require law enforcement agencies to get a court-ordered warrant, with police showing probable cause of a crime, before getting access to suspects' electronic records stored for longer than 180 days.
Several tech groups cheered the committee's decision to approve the bill and send it to the full Senate for a vote, although some law enforcement groups raised concerns that the changes to ECPA could compromise investigations. The changes could hamper the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's efforts to investigate financial fraud, SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White said in a letter to the committee.
Despite some concerns about the bill, a "growing mistrust of government" is driving public opinion, said Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican. Voters are concerned that "the government is snooping through emails and online communication at will," he added.
Supporters of the bill, including dozens of privacy groups and tech companies, have argued for years that amendments to ECPA are needed because law enforcement needs only a subpoena to require cloud and email service providers to turn over documents older than 180 days, while a warrant is needed for documents newer than that. Law enforcement agents need warrants to see paper documents stored in a suspect's file cabinet.
"Americans are very concerned about unwarranted intrusions into our private lives in cyberspace," said Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and main sponsor of the bill. "There's no question that if [police] want to go into your house and go through your files and drawers, they're going to need a search warrant. If you've got the same files in the cloud, you ought to have the same sense of privacy."
The committee's vote comes after news reports this month that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service believes it doesn't need a warrant to read the email of people it is investigating.
At the same time the Senate committee was voting on the ECPA Amendments Act, a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee subcommittee hosted a hearing examining whether law enforcement agencies should need warrants to obtain geolocation information from smartphones and other devices.
While the Senate's ECPA Amendments Act doesn't deal with geolocation information, a bill called the Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, with versions introduced both in the House and the Senate, would require warrants for that information.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts