Email Privacy Hearing Set To Go Before The House On Tuesday

IT Management

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Late last month, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said that reforming the decades old Electronic Communications Privacy Act was a priority for him in 2013. He's making good on his word by holding a hearing on the hotly debated issue tomorrow.

The Hill reports that the House Judiciary Committee has announced who will be attending the hearing on ECPA reform tomorrow. We'll see representatives from the Justice Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation showing up alongside Google's Richard Salgado and George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr.

It should be interesting to see what Salgado brings to the debate as he is Google's director of information security and law enforcement matters. He previously served as a federal prosecutor specializing in computer crime as well. His insight into what the ECPA currently allows and whether it should be limited will be worth paying attention to.

As for Kerr, his work in the field of Internet privacy has been largely influential for proponents of email privacy. His work was even cited numerous times in the 2008 Quon v. Arch Wireless Operating Co., Inc. ruling that said Internet users have a reasonable expectation of privacy in email. The decision was overturned by the Supreme Court, but you can bet that he's going to be fighting for an ECPA amendment that better protects privacy tomorrow.

The two law enforcement representatives will most likely argue that ECPA's current wording is sufficient. When ECPA reform was in the works last year, law enforcement and lawmakers sympathetic to their cause said that requiring a warrant to access emails would be detrimental to investigations.

This particular hearing, and any held after it, will have an influence on the current ECPA reform bill that was introduced in the House earlier this month. Rep. Zoe Lofgren's Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act would amend the ECPA and protect cell phone owners from warrantless tracking. The bill will undoubtedly be brought up by proponents of both sides at tomorrow's hearing, and will most likely influence changes in the bill going forward.