The Electronic Communications Privacy Act: Does the Answer to the Internet Information Privacy Problem Lie in a Fifteen Year Old Federal Statute? A Detailed Analysis


Henry M. Cooper


VOL. XX • Fall 2001 • NO. 1 (table of contents)

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In 1986, Congress enacted the Electronic Communications Privacy Act ("ECPA") to update and clarify federal privacy protections and standards in light of changes in new technologies. Since, then, however, the Internet has grown immensely and this article discusses whether a new federal legislation is needed to meet the challenge.

The author starts his analysis by defining what is "information privacy right." Then, he discusses how this right is been used and misused on the Internet. Following such definition, he discussed the ECPA Title II in detail. He analyses provisions of the ECPA, including section 2701, the definition of "access," sections 2702, 2703, 2707 and 2712. Consequently, he pointed the loopholes in these provisions such that the ECPA is not adequate to protect an individual's personal information. Hence, he proposes amendments to the ECPA, ranging from new definitions to damages provisions.

He cautions readers by quoting: "technology propels us forward, and we react to the social consequences only after the fact … IT may dawn on us too late that privacy should have been saved along the way." One way to stop the erosion of individual's online privacy rights is by amending ECPA Title II to prohibit unlawful disclosure of electronic record.

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