South Florida online privacy at issue in nationwide debate over Electronic Communications Privacy Act

The U.S. Supreme Court herd arguments this week with broad implications for everyone who has used an employer’s computer or cell phone to send private messages. In a case involving a California police officer who sent racy text messages using a city pager, the court is being asked to determine the extent to which such private communications can be used against citizens by employers, law enforcement and government agencies, according to the New York Times.

As our computer crimes attorneys reported recently in a four-part series published on our Miami Criminal Attorney blog, South Florida is at the forefront of the nationwide battle against computer crimes and the debate over search and seizure of e-mails.

Meanwhile, Congress is set to hold hearings on “much-needed updates” to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, Information Week reported.

When the ECPA was originally enacted, computers were in their infancy and Al Gore hadn’t quite finished inventing the internet. Today, they are a critical tool in everyday communications, including e-mails, instant messaging and text messaging.

“While the question of how best to balance privacy and security in the 21st century has no simple answer, what is clear is that our federal electronic privacy laws are woefully outdated,” said Se. Patrick Leahy, (D-VT), chairman of the privacy act’s Congressional oversight committee.

Google, Microsoft and other tech giants are joining privacy advocates in seeking tougher laws that raise standards for government access to online information. Among the changes being sought by privacy advocates are new rules requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before being given access to e-mails, text messages and other electronic information stored online.