Friday, May 13, 2016

House passes Email Privacy Act with a "perfect game shutout"; Social media can now be monitored for security clearance vetting

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed an “Email Privacy Act” with H.R. 699 govtrack reference here. The bill would carve an exceptrion for digital communications from the ECPA of 1986, which regards emails more than 180 days old as “abandoned”.  Now, the government would need a warrant to retrieve them.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPCA) has an account of the bill here.

The bill could make future threats to privacy (like cloud searches for illegal content) less likely.

In an at least tangentially related matter, the Obama administration has announced that social media postings can be vetted in security clearance background investigations, probably for both federal employees (or military personnel) and contractors.  It's possible that comments made by others could figure into a clearance getting, and since these can be libelous or misleading (like a recent case where I was repeatedly tagged in Facebook photos in which I actually do not appear, by a prankster), so this could lead security clearance holders to be fussier about whom the "friend" or "follow" or allow to follow them.  It could lead to more sensitivity to photography in places like discos (sensitivity which has increased steadily since about 2010, which sounds ironic given the end of DADT).   Even so, the practical effect on most clearance holders is probably very low if they behave prudently online, The Wall Street Journal story by Damiam Palette uses the characterization "fair game" as if it were talking about what can be asked on the next test by the teacher.

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