Privacy and The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986

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Americans pride themselves on living private lives. They appreciate the fact that they live without being under the watchful eye of someone. However, increased electronic technology has made it harder to live privately. There are privacy issues regarding Internet Service Providers (ISP), electronic correspondences, and telephone calls. More directly with the creation and increased popularity of the Internet, people who use the World Wide Web are undoubtedly concerned with their private information being leaked. The technology allows people to track your Internet activities, steal your credit card information and “hack” into your e-mail accounts. With this increase in technology comes an increase in the level of concern.

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The third case involves an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who released information about one of their customers. The ECPA applies to this case because the information released was stored electronically. The law was applied in different ways to each situation. Before analyzing the cases, it’s important to know what the ECPA is.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) was developed to protect individuals from the illegal seizure of their electronic information and possessions. “The ECPA prohibits, among other things, intentional interception of electronic communications and the intentional access of stored electronic communications” [2]. This law is based on the Wiretap Act, “which was to prevent excessive governmental intrusions into the privacy of others” [3] The law specifically disallows the government to have access to stored electronic information. It also prohibits them having access to Internet account information without permission. Service providers are forbidden from purposely giving out private information without the customer knowing and without a proper search warrant[4]. This law is important because with the increase in electronic communications, our privacy is at risk more than ever before. This law is meant to protect individuals from others trying to get their on-line information and from the government having direct access to people’s private on-line information. [5]

The ECPA

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