Proposed upgrades and exemptions for the Electronic Privacy Act of 1974 (EPCA)

Posted: September 23, 2010 in civil liberties oversight board, communication, computers, DHS, e-mail, electronic privacy, EPCA, FBI, fusion centers, Government, phones, politics, suspicious activity reporting

BTC – Digital Privacy, like most things over 35 years of age,  is in need of a little in need of shaping up around the middle as Senators push to update to electronic privacy law in spite of elections.

Almost on cue, Washington domestic intelligence agencies are expressing resistance to this new regimen of reduced budget diet and political exercise to cut the fat.

To start, DHS is asking to be exempted from the dated provisions in the 1974 Privacy Act in a new National Proposed Rule or NPRM concerning “electronic records”.  Yes, that would include e-mail, phone calls and anything else that creates a record from an electronic pulse. This is possibly so they won’t have to pass an additional appropriations bill or comply with the development of more stringent Privacy codes designed to protect citizens from non-criminal surveillance.

“The Department of Homeland Security is giving concurrent notice of a newly established system of records pursuant to the Privacy Act of 1974 [EPCA] for the “Department of Homeland Security/ALL-031 Information Sharing Environment Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative System of Records” and this proposed rulemaking. In this proposed rulemaking, the Department proposes to exempt portions of the system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements.”

[They are seeking public input on this for the next 19 days.]

NPRM’s are a chronic source of irritation for electronic privacy advocates seeking ways to cut funding to bureacratic tech adoptions in local and national governance; which are later used for broad public surveillance.  Domestic federal intelligence agencies, like the FBI, are trying to hang onto the vagueries which allow them to veer into places they have no right to go.  However, in all fairness, the government is only one aspect of our society where upgrades to the EPCA will face resistance.

Wireless, social networking, and cloud computing companies, like Google, have been compromising the public cache, divesting analytics, or information gained by use of their technology, for profit or for leverage in a tough economy.  Strange concessions from these companies have started to emerge, maybe to demonstrate how they can change their evil ways.  Perhaps more so they won’t get the heavy legal hit expected if the EPCA gets the legal upgrade necessary to constrict the private tap of consumer information being abused today.

One thing is clear ; as the EPCA is updated it should end the festive looting of your private digital records at the convenience of the US government and private information brokers.

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