Magazine article USA TODAY

Stored Communications Act Needs Revision

Magazine article USA TODAY

Stored Communications Act Needs Revision

Article excerpt

In testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Fred H. Cate, professor of law at Indiana University, Bloomington, called for revisions to the Stored Communications Act, a piece of legislation that regulates how and when authorities can obtain electronically stored communications. Cate, director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, indicates that the rise of "cloud computing"--the increasingly common method of storing data externally, allowing it to be accessed from multiple locations through an Internet connection--has created the need for clearer and more concise laws.

The SCA essentially serves as an extension of the Fourth Amendment to protect users' data--such as e-mails or other documents--from unlawful searches. However, the legislation often is criticized for being dense and confusing. "Law enforcement officials, service providers, and courts have considerable difficulty understanding and applying the statute. The result is that it is often misapplied. This situation serves no one's interest, because it means that the SCA provides inadequate protection for privacy and inadequate certainty for when law enforcement can access important information. …

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