Today, individuals everywhere are making a permanent mark of their activities every single day. Whether it’s through cellphone texts, emails, Twitter, or Facebook posts, people can be tracked more so today than ever before. However, an article featured by the New York Times highlights some interesting information about surveillance surrounding electronic technology that many consumers are most likely unaware of.
Under the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (EPCA), judges are allowed to grant requests for an individual’s cellphone or email records without probable cause as long as the request is not seeking the contents of the communications.
For instance, a government official who seeks to confirm that a call on a cellphone took place on a given date or certain location doesn’t need to establish probable cause.
“Unless criminal charges are filed, law-abiding citizens will never know that the government has accessed their e-mails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter accounts, or cellphone records,” Federal District Court Judge Steven W. Smith points out.
Generally, the U.S. Constitution aims to protect an individual’s right to privacy and scrutiny by the government, particularly for criminal proceedings when a person’s freedom and liberty are on the line.
However, the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act seems to side-step this protection.
Judge Smith says that individuals whose records have been scrutinized should be informed. In an article soon to be published in The Harvard Law and Policy Review, he wrote about the importance for information to be collected to “allow the press and public to better understand the extent of government intrusion into our digital lives.”
It remains to be seen whether the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act will ever be changed.
In the past six years alone, authorities made over a million requests from cellphone carriers for subscriber information in connection with a criminal investigation.
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