New privacy bill would require search warrant for e-mail, cell tracking

By on September 26, 2012, 9:30 AM

Several technology companies including Apple, Google, Intel, Microsoft and Twitter are backing a new privacy bill that was recently introduced in the US House of Representatives. Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren’s bill would require law enforcement officials to obtain a search warrant from a judge before snooping through someone’s e-mail or collecting location information via cell phone tracking.

Lofgren’s bill intends to amend the Electronics Communications Privacy Act of 1986. The grossly outdated legislation was put into effect in what CNET describes as the pre-Internet era of telephone modems, dial-up bulletin boards and 5.25-inch floppy drives. The law is difficult for judges to interpret in today’s high-tech society as it was written in a time before social networks and cloud computing were created.

The bill is expected to face stiff competition from the Department of Justice based on their belief that that requiring a search warrant would make police investigations more difficult to carry out. Ars points to a recent case heard by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that determined law enforcement officials were within their right to obtain location information from a man’s mobile phone without seeking a warrant.

It’ll be at least a few months before we hear a decision on the bill as it was introduced just days after the House of Representatives adjourned until after Election Day on November 6. That’s plenty of times for those on both sides of the argument to voice their concerns.

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