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A Law From 1986 Shouldn’t Govern Email Privacy in 2016

Are you familiar with the protections in place that ensure that your digital communications remain private? What’s keeping an entity like the government from going through your emails? In the United States, the government uses a loophole in an outdated law to access the digital information they want from its citizens. If you’re concerned about privacy, you need to be informed about such laws and loopholes.

For the US government, this loophole is found in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Key to this discussion is the fact that the law was originally passed in 1986. We don’t have to tell you how different the technological landscape was in 1986, much less digital communications like email. The loophole to ECPA is that it considers any stored electronic communications over 180 days old to be “abandoned,” and thus, law enforcement agencies can access it after the 180-day mark without a warrant. Obviously, the original version of ECPA was passed without having any idea how dependent the world would become on sharing and storing digital communications 30 years into the future.

Recently, legislative action has taken place to try and close this loophole. CompTIA reports:

On April 13th, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed an amended version of the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699)… The Email Privacy Act would put an end to this outdated 180 day rule and require a warrant for law enforcement to access the content of all stored communications. While the current iteration of the bill is not perfect, we were happy to see that it does not contain a carve out to the warrant requirement for civil agencies, nor does it alter ECPA’s emergency exception procedures.

The idea here is to protect users of email and cloud services, along with the service providers themselves. As society continues to become more dependant upon digital communications, having discussions like this and knowing who has access to your data is increasingly important.

Were you aware of this loophole before reading this article? Do you feel this is cause for concern, or do you not care if the government reads your emails? Share your opinion with us in the comments.