Google helps establish "Digital Due Process"

Chris Caceres · March 30, 2010 · Short URL:

Google, Intel, Microsoft and other major tech companies aim to change online privacy laws

Google, along with several other major tech companies like Intel, Microsoft and Salesforce, have all joined forces to form the Digital Due Process.  The full list of companies participating can be found here.  The overall principles of the organization as stated on its Website are,

  • "To simplify, clarify, and unify the ECPA standards, providing stronger privacy protections for communications and associated data in response to changes in technology and new services and usage patterns, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public."

The ECPA, which stands for Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written up in 1986 and was designed to protect our digital lives.  Google and the rest of these companies believe it's an out of date act arguing, "it was written long before most people had heard of email, cell phones or the "cloud."

The main idea is to protect us from unwarranted government intrusion, so things like, requiring government to first obtain a search warrant before getting access to our private communications stored online.  

It makes sense companies like these are fighting for this.  Google and Salesforce, for example both offer virtually all of their solutions in the cloud and are constantly pushing forward the whole concept of cloud computing.  The idea of cloud computing, everything being stored up on servers, like our documents and other files, is great, especially with the rise of smart phones, netbooks, and upcoming tablet devices - there is now no limitation to what we can access on the go.  But without regulations set in place on government, like what the Digital Due Process is fighting for, government can basically intrude on our private lives, online.  Government can't exactly access physical papers from our file cabinets unless they have a search warrant, so why should they be able to more easily access files we have stored up in Google Docs or our emails?

Search giant Google published a blog entry on Tuesday morning on how exactly it would like to modernize the ECPA:

  • Better protect your data stored online: The government must first get a search warrant before obtaining any private communications or documents stored online;
  • Better protect your location privacy: The government must first get a search warrant before it can track the location of your cell phone or other mobile communications device;
  • Better protect against monitoring of when and with whom you communicate: The government must demonstrate to a court that the data it seeks is relevant and material to a criminal investigation before monitoring when and with whom you communicate using email, instant messaging, text messaging, the telephone, etc.; and
  • Better protect against bulk data requests: The government must demonstrate to a court that the information it seeks is needed for a criminal investigation before it can obtain data about an entire class of users.
This video also sums it up pretty clearly:

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