Senate discussing legislation for cloud, email security

While the private sector has made tremendous strides in recent years toward developing innovative tech solutions in the workplace, such as cloud-based ERP, there are still questions to be answered about security, and that debate has become increasingly contentious. On one side, the federal government wants to monitor web surfing in the private sector, but on the other, private organizations are fighting to maintain their privacy.

The United States Senate may have a suggestion for a compromise – Online Media Daily reports that lawmakers have introduced an amendment to federal privacy law that would offer consumers more protection for email and cloud data.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 arrived on the Senate floor with bipartisan support, bolstered by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy and Utah Republican Mike Lee. The bill would bar any law enforcement official from searching emails or other cloud data without first producing a warrant – in other words, extending our cloud networks the same constitutional right to privacy as our homes.

CNET explains that while the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was a meaningful step forward for data security, it is now far outdated. The act was passed in 1986, long before email became an integral part of the American workplace, and new provisions are needed to make sure Americans can keep their data safe and secure without surrendering their constitutional rights.

Elana Tyrangiel, acting assistant attorney general, told Online Media Daily that the ECPA was in desperate need of an overhaul.

“[Some portions of the act] that may have made sense in the past have failed to keep up with the development of technology and the ways in which individuals and companies use and increasingly rely on electronic and stored communications,” Tyrangiel said.

The news source also emphasized that this debate over the ECPA has been brewing for years. At least one federal court has deemed the act unconstitutional – the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2010 that the act violated the Fourth Amendment by not requiring search warrants. Richard Salgado, director of law enforcement and information security at Google, testified that the act “frustrates users’ reasonable expectations of privacy.”

While cloud solutions have dramatically improved productivity in the workplace, there are still questions to be answered about security. With a little help from Washington, we may soon begin to find answers.