• House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr (D-Mich), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, and Robert “Bobby” Scott (D.-Va.), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, jointly announced their intent to spearhead reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). They indicated that the changes would be focused on addressing the vast technological changes that have occurred since the enactment of ECPA. “I welcome the common ground achieved by major corporations and privacy groups on the need for ECPA reform,” said Chairman Conyers. “Vast transformation, including the growth of the internet, has occurred in electronic communications since the enactment of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act in 1986.” An industry group that includes Google, Microsoft, the Progress and Freedom Foundation, and the Center for Democracy and Technology, among others, agrees that the ECPA needs to be updated. In particular, they are requesting that the ECPA be modified to account for the emergence of cloud computing.
  • The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument late last month regarding a district court’s ruling that permitted a Virginia resident to publish the Social Security numbers of Virginia officials on her website. Betty Ostergren of Hanover County, Virginia posted the Social Security numbers of 20 state officials, which she obtained from public records, to pressure the state into taking more steps to keep Social Security numbers off of government websites such as those maintained by state courts. Virginia had enacted a law that took effect in July 2008 imposing fines on those who disseminate Social Security numbers, even ones found on state court websites. In June, US District Judge Robert E. Payne ordered the Virginia Attorney General to stop enforcing the law, because it violated Ms. Ostergren’s free speech rights. The Virginia Attorney General’s office appealed that ruling to the Fourth Circuit. Ostergren v. McDonnell, 09-1723.