Apple made a public stance against government searches of electronic devices without a warrant on Thursday by joining the Digital Due Process organization. The group is made up of several companies such as Amazon.com, AT&T, Google, HP, and Microsoft, and is working to improve privacy for smartphone, tablet and computer users.
The group is working to change the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to offer better privacy protection for tech gear that wasn’t addressed when the law was written.
Apple joins electronic privacy rights organization
“ECPA was passed by Congress in 1986, before the World Wide Web was even invented and when cell phones were still a rarity,” said Kevin Bankston from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, another DDP member. “Yet to this day, ECPA is the primary law governing how and when law enforcement can access personal information and private communications stored by communications providers like Google, Facebook, your cell phone company or your ISP.”
Along with Apple, the online storage company Dropbox joined the DDP on Thursday, too.
Instead of throwing out the ECPA, and starting over, the organization is working to change parts of the law to better reflect the ways users store information today.
“For example, [the ECPA] doesn’t specifically address location information at all, which has led to years of fighting in the courts about whether or not the government needs a search warrant to track your cell phone,” Mr. Bankston said. “Meanwhile, whether or not ECPA requires the government to get a warrant before seizing private communications content like your emails and IM chats turns on absurd factors like how old the messages are and, according to the Justice Department, whether or not you’ve read them yet.”
Internet search histories through services such as Google and Bing aren’t protected at all.
Since the DDP’s launch last spring, the organization has been actively working with lawmakers in Washington DC on ECPA changes. Several bills addressing updates to the law have already been introduced, although none have worked their way through the approval process yet to be signed into law.