02.12.10

Comment On Cell Phone Tracking And Electronic Privacy

A hearing today before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit will examine the legal standard that should apply when the government requests Americans’ cell phone locational information.

“In the Information Age, cell phones, BlackBerries and other innovative technologies make it easier for Americans to quickly share information, with countless benefits.  But, these technologies also create privacy challenges that were unforeseen when Congress enacted federal electronic privacy laws decades ago.  The use of cell phone locational information impacts Americans across the nation and from every walk of life.  The question of how best to protect these digital communications, while providing law enforcement with the tools that it needs to keep us safe, has no simple answer.   But, what is clear is that our federal electronic privacy laws are woefully outdated.  Congress must work with the Justice Department, privacy advocates and the technology industry to update and clarify the law to reflect the realities of our times. 

“This Congress, I will chair a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee to explore much-needed updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  I hope others in Congress will work with me to address this important issue on behalf of the American people.”

Leahy is the chief author of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which criminalized tampering with electronic mail systems and remote data processing systems, and to protect the privacy of computer users.  In previous Congresses, Leahy has introduced legislation to update ECPA to respond to advances in technology. 

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