Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has introduced legislation that seeks to extend Fourth Amendment protection to electronic communications, which if successful would be a major move to protect online privacy.
However, some might be skeptical given Paul’s much-criticized apparent flip-flop on the drone issue.
Nonetheless, Paul has made some much needed statements about the lack of protection given to the private electronic communications of the American people.
“In today’s high-tech world, we must ensure that all forms of communication are protected,” Paul said in a press release. “Yet government has eroded protecting the Fourth Amendment over the past few decades, especially when applied to electronic communications and third party providers.”
The Fourth Amendment is supposed to protect the American people from unreasonable search and seizure, though that has been undermined quite a bit.
“Congress has passed a variety of laws that decimate our Fourth Amendment protections,” Paul said. “In effect, it means that Americans can only count on Fourth Amendment protections if they don’t use email, cellphones, the Internet, credit cards, libraries, banks or other forms of modern finance and communications.”
Paul’s legislation, the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act, or S. 1037, would require law enforcement to obtain warrants when seeking access to personal data online including emails, chat logs, online banking records and more.
“Basic constitutional rights should not be invalidated by carrying out basic, day-to-day functions in a technologically advanced world, and this bill will provide much needed clarity and reassert Fourth Amendment protections for records held by third parties,” he said.
As WebProNews points out, Paul’s legislation was introduced only a month after the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013, introduced Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Unlike Leahy’s bill, however, Paul’s bill would ensure all online data held by third parties is protected by the Fourth Amendment,” according to Zach Walton of WebProNews.
This type of reform seems to be gaining steam, with Attorney General Eric Holder even supporting an update of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Paul also introduced the Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2013, a bill that aims to “protect an individual’s right to privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones.”
It will be interesting to see how these bills fare in a climate that remains hostile to limiting government power.
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