Help Protect Your Electronic Rights by Signing the ECPA Reform Petition

December 11, 2013

LinkedIn is among a number of Internet companies that have joined organizations such as the Center For Democracy and Technology and the Digital Due Process Coalition, in supporting a petition calling on the White House to back efforts in Congress to revise the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ECPA is a 30-year old law that is an outdated patchwork of confusing standards allowing U.S. law enforcement access to personal information held by technology companies. As I previously shared in a letter to the LinkedIn community on ECPA and related issues, as a matter of principle, we think it is critical that the U.S. government - while preserving the tools it needs to protect the public – ensure that its laws take into account changes in technology.

LinkedIn has long held that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should apply to all data, whether stored in analog or digital format. For instance, the U.S. government is required to obtain a search warrant before accessing physical documents like a rolodex of your contacts stored on your desk or in a file cabinet, but under ECPA today, not for accessing your rolodex of contacts stored in the cloud. We believe the same standard should apply to both, regardless of the storage format. Likewise, we believe that a search warrant is necessary for access to electronic communications (e.g., email), regardless of whether the communication is 179 days old or 181 days old – but under ECPA today, an arbitrary line is drawn at emails stored for 180 days.

It makes no sense that the technological advancement of our society should reduce the protections guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment. Based on this U.S. constitutional principle, we hold the government to the higher standard and require it to obtain a search warrant for access to a member’s connections, and for the content of communications, regardless of how long they have been stored.

The changes advocated by the Digital Due Process Coalition rationalize, simplify, and clarify the standards for U.S. government law enforcement access to data, and provide clearer privacy protections for our members and internet users, taking into account changes in technology, while preserving the legal tools necessary for the government to enforce the laws and protect the public. The Coalition also does not support special rules for regulatory agencies, which are advocating for Congress when enacting ECPA reform to make exceptions for them so that they can gain access to emails and other content without a search warrant.

LinkedIn has consistently supported ECPA reform, so we wholeheartedly support this petition, as well as the other efforts to reform ECPA. We urge you to join the effort to bring greater legal protections under the law for LinkedIn members and users of electronic services in the U.S. The magic number for this petition is 100,000 votes, and we are almost there. The deadline for signing the petition is Thursday, December 12, 2013.