It has now been a year since the Records Preservation and Access Committee joined the Digital Due Process Coalition in the hope of injecting the interests of the genealogical community into the dialogue being conducted in Washington DC. Far too often we had previously observed a tendency to address privacy concerns with a reflexive tendency to simply close access to the records we need. We announced that affiliation in a blog post on 2 December 2012 found here: http://www.fgs.org/rpac/2012/12/02/ssdi-the-search-for-allies/
A number of our colleagues in the DDP Coalition (and other enterprises) last Thursday , the 5th of December, joined a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) [http://www.digital4th.org/petition.html], the law that says the government can access your email and documents in the cloud without a warrant.
The announcement of this effort continued:
“ECPA is one of the Internet’s most outdated laws – it was enacted in 1986, before most people had access to a home computer or email. While the public has been rightfully outraged over reports that the NSA accesses communications without a warrant, ECPA says that hundreds of other government agencies—like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies—can access many of our stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without getting a warrant from a judge. The law flies directly in the face of our Fourth Amendment values; in fact, many companies have fought back and now demand warrants before turning over customers’ communications.
Bills to reform ECPA have gained huge support in recent months from both parties in Congress. However, legislation is now being blocked by a proposal from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is pushing for a special carve-out for regulatory agencies to get your documents from online providers without a warrant. The SEC carve-out would neuter ECPA reform.
That’s why we’re calling on the White House to break its silence and stand up for ECPA reform. We need President Obama to tell the SEC to back down in its demands for troubling new powers and make clear that the time for ECPA reform is now.
Today we ask you join us by signing this petition to the White House [http://www.digital4th.org/petition.html]. It’s time for the President to join tech companies, startups, advocates, and Members of Congress by supporting this commonsense, long overdue reform to ensure our privacy rights online.”
Update: 12 December–As of early this morning, the number of signers of the petition had exceeded the 100K threshold required to trigger a formal response from the Administration. Over 30 thousand signatures were garnered in the last two days, an astounding feat!