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Google, Facebook and Others Requiring Warrants for Your Online Communications
By: Jessica Cherok
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Do you know what is required in order for companies like Google or Facebook to turn over information about your electronic communications when government entities ask? Both say that they require full warrants in order to give over information they have. This is a notable change for Facebook, which had in the past complied with simply a subpoena.

Their policies are actually above what is legally required to be provided, at least at a federal level. Google, Facebook, as well as other companies setting their policies to be more stringent than the legislation further shows the need for it to be updated. Decades-old standards simply do not keep pace with changing technology.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), one of several pieces of federal legislation governing access to private data, does not require full warrants to be presented. There has been a recent push to revise ECPA, which was passed in the 1980s; therefore, undoubtedly outdated.

Communications through email and social media have had limited privacy protections in the eyes of the courts. So, while it is encouraging these companies have taken it upon themselves to adopt more stringent policies than the law requires, it is somewhat unclear as to how well the policies would hold up under legal pressure to overturn information.

Many people feel their emails and social media private messages should be treated with the same standards of privacy as other forms of communication. An update to ECPA would, amongst other things, help solidify the practice of obtaining a warrant prior to providing a user’s private information.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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