Think Twice Before Sending Out That Email as Privacy Bill May be Amended
Think Twice Before Sending Out That Email
Plugging along on the computer and you realize you need to send an email to someone. Maybe you just need to get some venting off your shoulders in a private manner to a friend. What once would remain private may no longer be the case. A new law that has just been rewritten essentially gives the government a little more control into prodding through your emails. We are not just talking about one government agency having access to your email, but instead *22 agencies will be able to take a look into your “private” thoughts. It’s not too clear yet, as to why OSHA and similar government agencies would have a reason to view American’s emails in the first place.
Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has discretely made a few changes to his bill (see full copy below) on email access for government agencies. The new bill is scheduled to be voted on next week and entails quite a bit of access to not only emails but also social media accounts and anything on cloud servers, like your privateGoogle Docs. The worst part is that law enforcement will not need a warrant to go through your messages.
How it’s Being Viewed by Others
Although some may have seen this coming, having full access to everything we type is still scary in its own right. Do not expect to receive a message before they start browsing through your history. The bill states authorities will not have to notify the owner before prodding. Slowly but surely, we will be giving up access to many more aspects of our lives.
Head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg, told CNET “that in light of the revelations about how former CIA director David Petraeus’ e-mail was perused by the FBI, “even the Department of Justice should concede that there’s a need for more judicial oversight,” not less.”
According to CNET, Markham Erickson, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. who has followed the topic closely and said he was speaking for himself and not his corporate clients, expressed concerns about the alphabet soup of federal agencies that would be granted more power:
There is no good legal reason why federal regulatory agencies such as the NLRB, OSHA, SEC or FTC need to access customer information service providers with a mere subpoena. If those agencies feel they do not have the tools to do their jobs adequately, they should work with the appropriate authorizing committees to explore solutions. The Senate Judiciary committee is really not in a position to adequately make those determinations.
A Complete 180
In the past year, Leahy has boasted about the extra privacy Americans will gain through this bill. Instead, we see that the proposed amendments are anything but added privacy. As we all know, rules are made for those who break them. Americans can be optimistic that the government will only access your communications if you are involved in any sketchy behavior. We can hope right?
If this new bill passes the vote, email and social media users will now be a little more leery when sending out any communication. This may actually be a good thing for Americans. Instead of just spouting off what is on our mind, we can be a little more politically correct. This definitely goes back to what momma always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Who knows, maybe the bill won’t pass, but it does lead the way for more bills similar in lowering the privacy of Americans.
If Leahy gets what he wants, many companies will have to change their privacy policies to include the loophole allowing the government to view all messages. Many companies, including Apple, Google, and Facebook have already joined forces for reformation of the old 1986 privacy law. These companies understand Americans need some privacy when communicating through their mobile devices and cloud computing. Major rivals are standing together to assist Americans in keeping their communications private. Right off the cuffs of an election, we will eagerly be watching to see the new developments that come out of the vote next week and where the senate will stand on the issue.
We will let you know what the final vote is next week, so please check back for an update. You can find more of this week news in tech by visiting our tech news section.
*The list of agencies that would receive civil subpoena authority for the contents of electronic communications also includes the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission.
Here are the proposed amendments spoken of above:
Proposed amendments to EPCA