ITIF Calls for Update of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act

January 28, 2013

WASHINGTON (January 28, 2013) - In marking the observance of Data Privacy Day, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is joining with numerous think tanks and advocacy groups to call for updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The law, passed in 1986 to establish rules for government access to electronic communications in criminal investigations, has not kept pace with advances in modern technology. 

"The single most important privacy issue for this Congress is to address glaring deficiencies in ECPA. Data stored in the cloud should receive the same protections as data stored at home on a PC," notes Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with ITIF. 

Under ECPA there are different levels of protection afforded to the privacy of an individual's data depending on where the data is stored. For example, law enforcement officials need a search warrant based on probable cause to access email stored on a home computer; in many cases they do not need a search warrant to access the email of individuals who use webmail services from companies such as Google, Yahoo or Microsoft.

"The privacy of an individual's communication should be the same regardless of the type of technology that is used to facilitate this communication," Castro argues. "Policymakers concerned about privacy should make modernizing ECPA their top legislative priority." 

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Judiciary Committee, who helped pass ECPA over 25 years ago, has stated that amending the legislation will be a priority for him during this legislative session.

"We applaud Senator Leahy for his efforts to bring this issue to the forefront and call on Congress to address this important issue, which is central to the Fourth Amendment protection of all citizens," Castro adds.


The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-partisan think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. Visit for more information.