Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cybercrime law - ECPA

The most important cybercrime law availabile to Law Enforcement right now is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986. This statute, along with amendments to it from the USA PATRIOT Act, provide law enforcement their modern wiretap powers. (OJP, 2013) Law enforcement would have been lost such access as communications moved off of the Plain Old Telephone Service, POTS, wires to digital Internet networks. (Frontier, n.d.) Due to changes in how data storage is used in the modern Internet compared to the expectations of the late 80s, the Department of Justice uses the ECPA to carry out warrantless retrieval of "abandoned" emails left on a server. (Reitman, 2012) Modern web-based email, starting with Google's GMail, provides storage capabilities measured in Gigabytes, which means a user can archive a lifetime of text email right in their mailboxes on the server without it ever being abandoned. (McCracken, 2014) Argued by some to be violating the protections of the 4th Amendment, accessing 180+ day old data without a warrant provides law enforcement a powerful tool for collecting stored data during investigations. (Reitman, 2012)

Frontier. (n.d.). What is POTS? The Connection.
McCracken, H. (2014, April 1). How Gmail Happened: The Inside Story of Its Launch 10 Years Ago. Time.
OJP. (2013). Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA), 18 U.S.C. § 2510-22. Office of Justice Programs.
Reitman, R. (2012, December 6). Deep Dive: Updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. EFF.

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