Exploring the (US) Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986


I checked out a mix of government and public pages. The number one biggest frustration for me is not being able to find a date on a page, or at least when it was last updated. This problem seemed to be pervasive at the government sites in particular.

The topic stays in the national news in one form or another. For example, the New York Times recently ran a related article titled, N.S.A. Often Broke Rules on Privacy, Audit Shows.

The United States Department of Justice

Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-508) Links to the law itself, Bills that were involved from 1984-1986, House and Senate reports, Hearings, Debates, and "others."

Open Congress

Open Congress bills itself as non-profit and non-partisan. Waaaaay up at the top of the page, over the banner is the information: "A project of the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation." What I found most interesting about this site is the layout. It seems pretty easy to navigate, and I was able to easily "follow the money," because they named a tab "Money Trail."

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

What?! Not a government site, and yet no date on page, which leads me to question the relevance of the material. They apparently invest a chunk of their donations to producing videos that live on through You-Tube. There is one embedded on the site, titled "Online privacy law stuck in 1986."

One ACLU blog example

Research redemption! Their blog articles have dates and author names! In 2011 the "Blog of Rights" pointed out that the law was turning a quarter-century old. This particular link is to a recent blog article by Michael German reminding us that NSA Surveillance is Bad for Business. Yet another ACLU blog is called Free Future. There is a post dated August 14, 2013 by ACLU lawyer Brian Hauss, titled In Court Thursday: Demanding the Justice Department's Secret Memos on GPS Location Tracking. Because our phones are our computers, this is relevant to this discussion.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

A former Grateful Dead lyricist is a co-founder and board member of this organization, which claims "EFF works to inform the world about breaking issues in the world of technology policy and civil liberties." As with most activist organizations, they solicit donations. The government doesn't solicit donations, they use taxes! EFF is also into blogs. There is a wealth of information at this site. It would be relatively easy to follow any progress on the ECPA, as they have a Deep Dive column devoted to Updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, as well as one on ECPA and the future of electronic privacy. There are links to info on topics such as, Fourth Amendment application, The Third Party Doctrine, Why the law passed in the 80s is not sustainable, and activist activities updates. These folks even posted their annual reports from 2006-2010.

Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)

Last but ...(you know the adage). This site has a clean and easily-navigable layout. It gives a clear introduction to the topic, and lists ramifications of the law as it stands. They also list reform measures that have and will be attempted. Even though the site itself does not have a date, it is easy to see from the info listed that it is kept current. Links to informational resources abound, and seem to be mostly original sources. It is a non-profit organization run by a board. They have information on the European law as well.