As part of a broad coalition of privacy groups, think tanks, technology companies, and academics, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today issued recommendations for strengthening the federal privacy law [the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986] that regulates government access to private phone and Internet communications and records, including cell phone location data.
It’s an interesting coalition of rights-advocates (who are focused on the privacy of the individual) and businesses (which would benefit from more clarity in the law insofar as it 1) reduces their costs in dealing with legal uncertainties, and 2) creates more confidence in cloud-based services). Specifically, they want to:
The group’s four recommendations focus on how to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a law originally passed in 1986 before the World Wide Web was invented and when the number of American cell phone users numbered in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of millions. The group recommends that the legal standards under which the government can obtain private communications and records be clarified and strengthened in order to:
* Better protect the privacy of communications and documents you store in the cloud
* Better protect you against secret tracking of your location through your cell phone or any other mobile device
* Better protect you against secret monitoring of when and with whom you communicate over the telephone or the Internet
* Better protect innocent Americans against government fishing expeditions through masses of communications data unrelated to a criminal suspect
This is going to be a long-term project, and I think we can expect a lot of pushback from law enforcement (both declared and those in the intelligence fields who would rather exploit the existing grey areas). But it’s a positive move.