Conversations about life & privacy in the digital age

Join SpiderOak and Thousands of Others to Demand ECPA Reform

Today, SpiderOak is joining a nationwide day of action calling for reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the law that says the government can access your email and documents in the cloud without a warrant.

ECPA is one of the Internet’s most outdated laws – it was enacted in 1986, before most people had access to a home computer or email. While the public has been rightfully outraged over reports that the NSA accesses communications without a warrant, ECPA says that hundreds of other government agencies—like the IRS, FBI, and DEA, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies—can access many of our stored emails, private social media messages, and documents in the cloud without getting a warrant from a judge. The law flies directly in the face of our Fourth Amendment values.

Bills to reform ECPA have gained huge support in recent months from both parties in Congress. However, legislation is now being blocked by a power grab from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is pushing for a special carve-out for regulatory agencies to get your documents from online providers without a warrant. The SEC carve-out would neuter ECPA reform.

That’s why we’re calling on the White House to break its silence and stand up for ECPA reform. We need President Obama to tell the SEC to back down in its demands for troubling new powers and make clear that the time for ECPA reform is now.

Today we ask you join us by signing this petition to the White House. It’s time for the President to join hundreds of tech companies, startups, advocates, and Members of Congress by supporting this commonsense, long overdue reform to ensure our privacy rights online.

SpiderOak Calls to Reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

We all know the Fourth Amendment gives us a right to privacy – making it so the government can only search our home if they have a good reason, and – except in emergencies – a warrant from a judge. Since technology has advanced faster than court decisions and statues, our right to privacy is suffering.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was enacted to extend restrictions on the governments ability to intercept certain electronic communications. It was signed into law in 1986. 1986! Think: Peter Gabriel’s hit “In Your Eyes,” the Iran-Contra affair, Top Gun, the appearance of Halley’s Comet, and $89,430 was the average cost of a new home in the U.S.. The ECPA is now one of the Internet’s most outdated laws and desperately needs reform.

Instead of storing our private letters, photos, documents in a shoebox or file in our bedroom closet, most of us have them stored in the cloud. Under the current ECPA however, government agencies don’t need a warrant to search our private stuff stored in the cloud like they would if we stored these items in our home. We think this should change and better reflect this day and age.

The ECPA Reform Bill prohibits Internet companies from divulging contents of communications to the government without a warrant. It won’t solve everything, but it’s a good start and definitely part of the solution. It is bipartisan and has wide support from the tech community and advocacy groups. It’s time for congress to give the public the same level of protection of privacy that our email and online documents deserve.

If you agree, visit and tell your Representative to support ECPA reform.