Author’s Comment: Your cell phone tells police a lot about you. A Judge recently provided written testimony about about the impact of the ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act — that is a law that appears to be about anything but ensuring privacy of electronic communications). Title I of the ECPA 18 U.S.C.A. § 2510 allegedly protects wire, oral, and electronic communications while in transit. It was enacted to set down requirements for search warrants that are more stringent than in other settings. If you have issues or questions about this sweeping federal law, call me toll free at 1-877-793-9290.
Excerpts from the written testimony are below. We will be posting the complete testimony and will link to that for our readers.
“ECPA was passed in 1986 as a laudable attempt to balance the privacy rights of citizens and the legitimate interests of law enforcement, given the communications technology of that day.”
Author’s Comment: The ECPA provides that many of the requests and records are to remain secret. Title II of the ECPA, the Stored Communications Act (SCA) 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 to 2712 protects communication held in electronic storage, most notably messages stored on computers.
“The brunt of such secrecy is not necessarily borne by the surveillance targets who are ultimately charged with a crime. After all, they are entitled to discover the nature and source of the prosecution’s evidence, including electronic surveillance orders leading to arrest. Suppression motions are available in the event of a constitutional violation. But not everyone caught up in the web of electronic surveillance is ultimately charged with a crime. Any target is likely to call or be called by family, friends, associates, or even total strangers who have no connection to a criminal enterprise. Yet by the fortuity of a single call, these by-standers may be swept up in a criminal investigation, their cell phone use monitored and their location tracked in real time. Unlike criminal defendants, however, these presumably law abiding citizens will never find out. The phone company cannot tell them, and courthouse records will disclose nothing. Ordinarily, a citizen whose house or office is searched is provided a warrant duly signed by a judicial officer, giving notice of the particulars of the search.33 When a citizen wishes to challenge the legitimacy of a law enforcement search of his home pursuant to a warrant, the law affords due process for that purpose. But when searches are shrouded in permanent secrecy, as in most cases of electronic surveillance, due process becomes a dead letter. Such secrecy also has a pernicious impact on the judicial process . . . .”
Author’s Comment: There are proposals to restrict the scope of this federal law, but as of today, November 22, 2010, the law and its ability to gather a diverse array of data about your cell phone usage remains a frequently used tool of federal law enforcement, including DHS (Department of Homeland Security) , DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), State, and Local Law Enforcement.
If you have issues or questions about this sweeping federal law, call me toll free at 1-877-793-9290.
Cell Phone, Surveillance , SCA, Stored Communications Act , ECPA , 18 U.S.C. § 2510, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, , Electronic Communications Privacy Act
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