No one can argue convincingly that the email, photos and documents we store electronically are any less important to our personal and professional lives than the ones we keep on paper. Yet they are still held to different standards: Authorities need a warrant to search an old-fashioned file cabinet, but not your hard drive or email account.
That’s because the law that governs access to digital records, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA, turns 28 years old this week. It was enacted in 1986 — well before anyone but a small handful of scientists and academics had ever used the Internet — and it is long overdue for reform. Addressing this issue is an important step in building public trust in the innovative technologies at the heart of the digital economy. (more…)