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Senate Committee Moves to Update ECPA and Protect Digital World

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed by voice vote a bill proposed by Chairman Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. In short, the bill would make sure our 4th Amendment protections apply online as well as in the physical world: now law enforcement would need to get a warrant before demanding email and other online content. ECPA was passed in 1986 to protect online communications–long before cloud computing, online video chatting, etc.

This is great news for the millions of Americans conducting financial transactions online, storing their personal information "in the cloud" and who think law enforcement should follow Constitutional protections.

Perhaps those who should be most encouraged are users of bitcoin and other virtual currencies (including electronic commodity monies) who find FinCEN's and other regulations strangling currency innovations. At least now they have some good news that brings both legal clarity to a long in the tooth law that had become murky in a way that protects privacy and encourages technological innovation.

I had written about this bill in a previous post last year, but now we're at the start of the session, not the end.