Digital privacy laws in the United States just got one step closer to the 21st century.
A Senate committee on Thursday backed privacy protections that would require the government to obtain a search warrant before gaining access to email and other electronic communications.
The 1986 Electronic Privacy Communications Act was written before the Web was born and long before Americans started sending, receiving and storing so much of their personal communications and documents on the Web. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the law’s original author, is now trying to make sure that the government needs to prove probable cause before rummaging through it all.
Digital privacy found itself in the spotlight after CIA Director David Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. Privacy watchdogs asked: If the director of the CIA cannot keep the FBI from secretly rifling through his private Gmail account, what digital privacy protections do ordinary citizens have?