Senate Committee Updates ECPA, Modifies Video Privacy Law
The US Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that updates the
Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and modifies the Video
Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). Both laws, passed in the 1980s, have not
kept pace with advances in Internet technology. ECPA governs law
enforcement's ability to surveil communications and conduct wiretaps.
The VPPA prevents the disclosure of consumer video watching and renting
habits without consent.
Under the revisions to ECPA, law enforcement must obtain a search
warrant before accessing email or other private electronic
communications. Currently, no warrant is required for law enforcement
to obtain remotely stored email that is more than 180 days old.
The modifications to the VPPA allow users to provide "blanket consent"
to the disclosure of their video viewing records. Under current law,
users must consent to each individual disclosure. The new amendment
allows services such as Netflix to disclose viewer records with only a
one-time consent from the account holder. An amendment by Senator Diane
Feinstein (D-CA), adopted by the Committee, has limited this opt-in
consent to two years.
EPIC favors more extensive updates to ECPA. Specifically, EPIC has
argued that locational information should also be protected by a
warrant requirement. In addition, EPIC favors strong requirements for
prompt notification following any search.
In January 2012 EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg testified before
the US Senate against weakening the consent provision of the VPPA,
which has been one of the strongest statutes protecting consumers'
personally identifiable information, "The Video Privacy Protection Act
is a model privacy law. It is technology neutral and focuses on the
collection and use of personal information," EPIC stated. "The debate
over online privacy and Netflix does not exist in a vacuum. It is
becoming increasingly clear that only privacy laws actually safeguard
the privacy rights of Internet users."
US Senate: Bill to Update ECPA and VPPA (HR 2471) http://epic.org/redi.../120712-HR-2471.html
EPIC: Senator Feinstein's Amendment to HR 2471 http://epic.org/priv...nstein-Amendment.pdf
EPIC: Testimony of Marc Rotenberg on VPPA (Jan. 31, 2012) http://epic.org/priv...e-VPPA-Testimony.pdf
EPIC: Testimony of Marc Rotenberg on ECPA (June 24, 2010)https://epic.org/pri...ement_2010-06-24.pdf
EPIC: Electronic Communications Privacy Act http://epic.org/privacy/ecpa/
EPIC: Video Privacy Protection Act http://epic.org/privacy/vppa/