It’s Duck Season in Washington DC. It’s a lame duck to be sure as outgoing congressional leaders attempt to make good on campaign promises and pay their debts to their beholden. That usually means a lot of sneaky backroom deals. This time, however, there is an opportunity to do something better than payback cronies.
The Lame Duck would be a great time for Congress to pass a strong statement for the privacy rights of all Americans. Will they? That remains to be seen.
The bill that will allow them to do so is the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA). Passage of this bill would be a great legacy project for outgoing legislators. Something truly to be proud of -- something they can point to as a leading accomplishment for their time in DC.
What it does is basically modernize our privacy law. The current law we are operating under was crafted during the times of dial-up -- the world-wide web was just in an infancy. Here we are with a wide-open cloud and no good rules to protect our citizens.
A landmark case involving Microsoft v. Department of Justice has pushed the limits of the law and shown it to be inept. The lack of good law allows entities like the DOJ to operate outside of the rules and pretty much get away with anything, even if it tramples on the Fourth Amendment.
The DOJ has recently demonstrated a desire to reopen the Microsoft case. Doing so displays a fatal disregard for privacy rights of individuals and other nations. Why? Because the DOJ hopes to overturn a judge’s ruling that said Microsoft can’t be forced to turn over user data stored overseas. The Reagan-era Electronic Privacy Act is being used to coerce foreign governments into complying with US law to give up private information.
If we’ve learned anything from Hillary, it’s that email security is important. The new ICPA bill would modernize our old law and bring it into the 21st century. Senator Chris Coons and Senator Orrin Hatch sponsor it. If the ICPA is not passed, the current Wild West show will continue.
Allowing the DOJ to have its way and use this antiquated Fourth Amendment loophole to demand performance from a foreign country is the kind of thing could start wars. How would we like it if a foreign nation attempted to force us to give up information not under their jurisdiction? Of course, we would not like it, nor would we comply. This is why this bill is something legislators can be proud of.
ICPA is giving Congress has a chance to actually do something for the privacy rights many of us care deeply about -- a chance to protect the Fourth Amendment, which all representatives swore to protect upon taking office. It is bi-partisan effort and will create a clear framework for US law enforcement to operate under and stop the abuse of power we are witnessing at the DOJ.
People are cynical about anything gets done during the Lame Duck Season. Privacy law improvement would be something to take home like a feather in the cap. Will congress get it done or are they too busy packing the last appropriations bill with all pork it can stand?