Electronic Communications Privacy Act

On February 6, 2017, the House of Representatives suspended its rules and passed by voice vote H.R 387, the Email Privacy Act. As we previously reported, the Email Privacy Act amends the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) of 1986. In particular, the legislation would require government entities to obtain a warrant, based on probable cause, before accessing the content of any emails or electronic communications stored with third-party service providers, regardless of how long the communications have been held in electronic storage by such providers. Continue Reading House of Representatives Passes Email Privacy Act

On January 9, 2017, Representatives Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Jared Polis (D-CO) reintroduced the Email Privacy Act, which would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”) of 1986. In particular, the legislation would require government entities to obtain a warrant, based on probable cause, before accessing the content of any emails or electronic communications stored with third-party service providers, regardless of how long the communications have been held in electronic storage by such providers. Although ECPA currently requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to search the contents of electronic communications held by service providers that are less than 180 days old, communications that are more than 180 days old can be obtained with a subpoena. Continue Reading Email Privacy Act Reintroduced in Congress

On October 8, 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“CalECPA”). The law requires police to obtain a warrant before accessing an individual’s private electronic information, such as text messages, emails, GPS data and online documents that are stored in the cloud and on smartphones, tablets, computers and other digital devices. The government also must obtain a warrant before requiring a business to produce an individual’s electronic information.

Continue Reading California Passes New Digital Privacy Law

On May 1, 2014, the White House released a report examining how Big Data is affecting government, society and commerce. In addition to questioning longstanding tenets of privacy legislation, such as notice and consent, the report recommends (1) passing national data breach legislation, (2) revising the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), and (3) advancing the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Continue Reading White House Releases Report on Big Data

On January 23, 2014, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (“PCLOB”) released a report (the “Report”) concluding that the National Security Agency (“NSA”) does not have a valid legal basis for its bulk telephone records collection program. The NSA’s bulk collection of consumer telephone records has been under increased scrutiny since Edward Snowden leaked information about the program in June 2013, and recently has faced legal challenges. According to the Report, the NSA’s program exceeded its statutory parameters.

Continue Reading PCLOB Report Concludes NSA’s Bulk Collection of Customer Phone Records Is Unlawful

On October 12, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed an electronic communications privacy bill. The bill, SB 467, would have compelled law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before seeking to access any email or other electronic communication maintained by service providers. The bill went beyond the scope of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which obligates law enforcement to obtain search warrants only for electronic communications that are unopened or stored by service providers for fewer than 180 days. The California bill was very similar to a bill signed into law in Texas earlier in 2013 that required law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before accessing customer electronic data held by email service providers.

Continue Reading California Governor Vetoes Electronic Communications Privacy Bill

On June 15, 2011, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011 (the “Act”).  As we reported previously, Senator Franken is chairman of the newly-created Senate subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.   In his press release, Senator Franken explained that the Act is designed to “close current loopholes in federal law” while giving customers the ability to learn about and prevent the collection of their location information.  The Act would apply only to non-government entities and would not impact law-enforcement activities.  At a May 10, 2011 hearing, both Google and Apple were questioned about their privacy practices, and Franken subsequently challenged them to require their application developers to adopt clear and understandable privacy policies.

Continue Reading Senators Franken and Blumenthal Co-Sponsor Location Privacy Protection Act

In late December 2010, consumers filed two class action lawsuits against Apple Inc., claiming that several applications they downloaded from Apple’s App Store sent their personal information to third parties without their consent.  Specifically, the consumers claim that Apple allowed third party advertising networks to follow user activity through the Unique Device Identifiers that Apple assigns each device that downloads applications.  The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, also named several application developers such as Pandora and The Weather Channel as co-defendants. Continue Reading Lawsuits Allege Apple Applications Sent Personal Information to Third Parties

On May 26, 2010, the court in Crispin v. Christian Audigier, Inc. quashed portions of subpoenas seeking the disclosure of private messages sent through Facebook and MySpace.  The court left open the question of whether Crispin’s wall postings and comments should be disclosed pending a more thorough review of his online privacy settings.

Continue Reading Privacy Settings on Social Networking Sites May Determine Protection Under Stored Communications Act

A computer user’s failure to secure his wireless network contributed to the defeat of his claim that a neighbor’s unwelcome access to his files violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”).  The ECPA places restrictions on unauthorized interception of, and access to, electronic communications.

Continue Reading Failure to Secure Wireless Network Defeats ECPA Claims