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Broadband, encryption and privacy top State of the Net agenda

Kenneth Corbin | Feb. 1, 2017
In a chaotic time on Capitol Hill, lawmakers from both parties see room for bipartisan work to advance broadband infrastructure, strike a balance in the encryption debate and update old privacy laws.

Email and privacy in the cloud

A separate but related debate on Capitol Hill involves the ongoing efforts to enact stronger legal protections against search and seizure for digital communications such as email. As it stands, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) governs the matter, stipulating that law enforcement authorities can access digital content such as emails and data stored in the cloud without having to obtain a warrant if those materials are more than 180 days old.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), herself a veteran of the tech sector, said that she intends to renew the effort to modernize ECPA and harmonize the legal protections surrounding digital and physical records.

"I worked on email in my early days at Microsoft, and here we have a policy that predates back then -- that predates even when I started working at Microsoft in 1989, when people were using host-based communication systems. And yet we haven't been able to update that law just so that we have a warrant standard for digital information the same we do for a piece of paper in your file drawer," Delbene said. "That's pretty indicative of how behind we are from a policy perspective."


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