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Will Lame Duck Congress Stand for Privacy?

Will Lame Duck Congress Stand for Privacy?

(Dollar Photo Club)

By    |   Wednesday, 16 November 2016 08:58 PM

The question of privacy has become a relentless and pervasive issue in the business and political environment. Who has access to your emails? Who has the right to invade your privacy?

There is persistent fear that there is a hooded and masked figure overseas, ready to steal your information. But that person should be the last of your privacy worries. The real threat is not some foreign alien, but the United States government.

In 1986, the Tenth Amendment-disregarding Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) was signed into law by supposed constitutionalist Ronald Reagan, allowing a governmental entity to, without a warrant, require providers of electronic communication services to hand over all data that is fewer than 180 days older. Simply put, the government can take any of your information as long as it is less than half a year old.

There is an obvious dissonance between the technology of 1986 versus the technology of 2016. Today, cloud storage is ubiquitous, and data is held indefinitely for years on end. Companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Facebook have been estimated to hold 1.2 million terabytes, all which is categorized by user, and this doesn’t even include providers such as Dropbox, Barracuda and SugarSync.

This newer technology means that ECPA is, in essence, allowing law enforcement to have exclusive access to the biggest set of Whitepages known to man - without reprimand, and without control.

And that is a scary thought.

The good news is that truth, viability, and pragmatism reign king over antiquated law. This summer, a New York court upheld privacy and democracy through the landmark ruling in Microsoft v. United States. Despite ECPA being on the books, the Second Circuit of Appeals overturned the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) order that would have forced Microsoft to hand over private email correspondence and other data to law enforcement.

This case heralds democracy at its finest, protecting its citizens from the overreach of government. It protected the government from unlawfully accessing data from foreign countries. Had the DOJ won, they would be able to access any server, based in any country, as long as the server is owned by an American company.

Unfortunately, it looks like the fight has not yet been won. Our privacy is at risk once again. Recently, the DOJ quickly collected itself and expressed a desire for a re-hearing of the court case.

This case should be closed again immediately. The DOJ should not be able to collect any data without a warrant. Fundamentally, we cannot afford to let anything that so blatantly disregards the Fourth Amendment go into the judicial books

For this reason, it is time for the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) to be  introduced into law. The ICPA is a joint bipartisan bill, brought forward by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), that would effectively clarify, “U.S law enforcement’s ability to obtain electronic communications around the world.”

Congress would be wise to use its Lame Duck session to pass ICPA, a bill that stands for American privacy, both domestically and abroad. Companies on U.S. soil, would no longer face the fear of sweeping data collection that is unconstitutional and unwarranted. Likewise,   government agencies looking to collect data, would see their processes expedited, as the process to collect a warrant would be clear and orderly.

Instead of re-opening Microsoft v. United States, the DOJ should look inward and ask if the means justify the end - whether sweeping and illegal data collection should be held at a value greater than our Bill of Rights and Constitution.

Our representatives in Congress should jump on the opportunity to protect our future’s privacy. We need to upgrade from an operating system that was made in 1986. The new modern ICPA will create an environment where companies are optimized to innovate without the fear of government overreach.

Americans at home who store data on the cloud should have no fear that their privacy and information is at stake.

The time is now to foster policy that represents who we are as a nation -- one part grounded in freedom, and the other symbolic of a nation that respects liberty.

ICPA is a policy two-years in the making - it’s been beta and alpha tested. It’s ready to go. Let’s get it into law and stand up for the Constitution and all of the Bill of Rights.

Christopher (Chris) Versace is the editor of the newsletter The Growth & Dividend Report and is a featured columnist to The Street.com as well as a contributor to FoxBusiness.com and Forbes.com.

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The question of privacy has become a relentless and pervasive issue in the business and political environment.
congress, lame ducj, privacy, information
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 08:58 PM
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