New technologies offer the promise of easier lives and faster access to more information, but we aren't the only ones benefiting from these advances. Technology improvements erode existing protections and greatly expanded powers for our security agencies allow the government to peer into our lives without due process or meaningful oversight. Our rights and liberties have undergone constant erosion since 9/11. Add that to the fact that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) hasn't been updated since 1986 - the age of brick phones - and we have a serious privacy issue on our hands every time we log onto our computers or use our cell phones.
More than a decade after 9/11, the websites we browse are tracked, our cell phones log our movements, our tweets are monitored by the FBI and the NSA can secretly wiretap our calls without any judicial oversight.
Privacy laws have failed to keep up with emerging technologies. We want to ensure that privacy rights are strengthened rather than compromised by new technology, and to protect these core democratic rights against intrusive corporate and government practices that rely on new technology to invade these rights.
The ACLU is constantly working at the state and federal level to support legislation that will expand privacy protections and rollback the abuses instituted in the name of national security. These invasions of our privacy rights don't make us safer, they only make us less free.
Digital privacy laws should:
- Protect Personal Information. The government shouldn't be able to get personal electronic information (like email, online documents, and search records) without a warrant, just like they can't enter your home and take your personal papers without a warrant. Employers shouldn't be able to require your Facebook and email passwords when you apply for a job.
- Safeguard Location Information. Cell phones transmit your location, but your cell phone shouldn't be used as a personal tracking device without a warrant or even your knowledge.
- Prohibit Use of Illegally Obtained Information. If the government breaks the law, shouldn't there be consequences? Law enforcement shouldn't be able to continue to use electronic information obtained illegally.
- Require Transparency Around Information Collection. The law should require notice and regular reporting so you know when and why companies turn over your private information to the government.
Video from Privacy in the Digital Age: Is the Fourth Amendment Still Relevant in Today's Technological Age?
Digital Privacy Part 1 - Practical Steps to Online Privacy
Digital Privacy 2- Legal Perspective
Digital Privacy 3 - What Next?
Demand Your dotRights
An ACLU project dedicated to online privacy, including information about protecting your privacy on social networks, email, cloud computing, photo sites and more.
ACLU: Protecting Civil Liberties in the Digital Age
The latest news on legislation and litigation involving digital privacy
The ACLU's privacy blog
Privacy in the Digital Age: Is the Fourth Amendment Still Relevant in Our Technological World?
An April 2012 presentation by Christopher Calabrese, Legislative Counsel for Privacy at the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office
Protecting Your Privacy
An April 2012 presentation on practical steps you can take to protect your privacy online by BJ McCracken, chair of the Montana Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee