Google, Microsoft, ACLU Form 'Digital Due Process' for E-Privacy Reform

Digital Due Process -- Electronic privacyGoogle (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and the American Civil Liberties Union might not seem like obvious partners for too many issues, but they've teamed up create a new advocacy group called Digital Due Process. Its goal is to get the federal government to update current legislation governing how law-enforcement agencies gain access to electronic data.

The consortium, which also includes DailyFinance parent AOL (AOL), wants Congress to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which was passed in 1986, and is widely considered to be antiquated.

"Originally designed to protect us from unwarranted government intrusion while ensuring that law enforcement had the tools necessary to protect public safety, it was written long before most people had heard of email, cell phones or the 'cloud' -- the term used for programs helping people store personal data like photos and documents online," Richard Salgado, Google senior counsel for law enforcement and information security, wrote in a blog post.

Google and the others describe Digital Due Process as "a coalition of technology companies, civil rights organizations and academics seeking to update ECPA to provide privacy protections to new and emerging technologies."

In its blog post, Google, which is taking the lead on the proposal, says Digital Due Process wants to "modernize ECPA" in four ways:

  • Better protect your data stored online: The government must first get a search warrant before obtaining any private communications or documents stored online.
  • Better protect your location privacy: The government must first get a search warrant before it can track the location of your cell phone or other mobile communications device.
  • Better protect against monitoring of when and with whom you communicate: The government must demonstrate to a court that the data it seeks are relevant and material to a criminal investigation before monitoring when and with whom you communicate using email, instant messaging, text messaging, the telephone, etc.
  • Better protect against bulk data requests: The government must demonstrate to a court that the information it seeks is needed for a criminal investigation before it can obtain data about an entire class of users.
Also joining the coalition is the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital rights group.

"The federal law protecting Internet and telephone users' privacy was written nearly 25 years ago, which is eons ago in 'Internet time,'" EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston wrote in a blog post. "When it comes to privacy, EFF has had its disagreements with fellow Digital Due Process members such as Google and AT&T. But this diverse coalition of privacy advocates and Internet companies agree on at least one thing: the current electronic privacy laws are woefully outdated and must be updated to provide clear privacy protections that reflect the always-on, location-enabled, Web 2.0 world of the 21st century."

Microsoft has also weighed in. And Google has released a video explaining the new initiative:

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