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PIPA creator launches, abandons, effort to expand email surveillance

PIPA co-author Patrick Leahy launched, then apparently abandoned, an effort to expand the government's email surveillance efforts this week, all conveniently packaged in an amendment that supposedly protects American's privacy.

According to CNet, it all started last year, when the Vermont Senator introduced amendments to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before reading emails and other messages, or locating a mobile device via GPS. That's all fine and dandy, but yesterday CNet broke the news that the amendment had been rewritten, and now expanded the government's surveillance powers. The rewritten amendment allows a whopping 22 agencies to access emails, direct message, and cloud documents with only a subpoena.

The original version of the amendment was supposed to have gone to vote back in September, but Leahy pushed it back and decided to rewrite it after the National District Attorneys' Association and the National Sheriffs' Association objected. Realizing his mistake in attempting to support privacy, Leahy apparently decided to go ahead and expand the already ludicrous surveillance powers.  Apparently, needing a warrant to read your emails "could have an 'adverse impact'" on criminal investigations, according to James Baker, the associate deputy attorney general.

At any rate, hours after CNet's article was published, Leahy sent out this tweet, apparently disowning his own amendment:

Abandoned or not, there's still plenty of reason to be suspicious, and everyone from privacy advocates to cloud service providers are fighting the amendments, all the while trying to expand protections for documents stored in the cloud.

Source: CNet | Image via Wikipedia

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