ALA’s District Dispatch website is joining the campaign to reform the “Electronic Computer Privacy Act – or ECPA as it is affectionately called.” Yesterday (Thursday, November 29th) the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reform the act which was first passed in 1986. The Dispatch reports that “Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the SJC, spearheaded an amendment to the existing law to require that the government seek warrants before law enforcement, or other federal regulatory bodies, may obtain personal online records from Internet service providers and third party providers.” Currently, such warrants are not required by ECPA and ALA and other privacy advocates have expressed concern that access to emails and other private online information is possible without judicial approval. More directly for the library community, ALA claims that library user privacy rights could be threatened if the bill is not reformed.
While the Senate Judiciary Committee action is encouraging, “several steps need to be taken before the bill is completely amended. The bill will now go to the Senate for a floor vote. Additional steps require action in the House and signing by President Obama.” Obviously, ALA’s Washington Office will be following developments closely – as will ATG.