US tech coalition calls for new online privacy law

US technology firms and privacy groups have called for an overhaul of privacy laws, saying the government has too much access to private online data. Google, eBay and others have launched the Digital Due Process coalition, seeking to update the 1986 privacy act, passed before internet usage exploded. It calls for warrants to be issued before e-mails and texts are handed over to law enforcement agencies. It seeks more protection of data stored online and mobile tracking information. The coalition is looking to re-write the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 that governs what kinds of private digital information the government has access to and how they may obtain it. The coalition – which includes over 30 members drawn from the worlds of industry, privacy and academia – said the ECPA is “a patchwork of confusing standards that have been interpreted inconsistently by the courts”. For example, law enforcement agencies can get access to some email information, instant messages, and other data stored online through simple subpoenas, not court-ordered warrants. The coalition has recommended that a warrant be required before internet providers must hand over the online information – just as a warrant is required for a physical search of a suspect’s computer or filing cabinets. It wants similar protection before mobile carriers turn over tracking information about customers. It also want courts to ensure any real-time information like texts and instant messages are relevant to an investigation. Members of the coalition acknowledged that law enforcement agencies were likely to resist any change and a long debate was almost certain before Congress would act.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8595775.stm

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