The White House Big Data Report: The Good, The Bad, And The Missing

Jeremy Gillula and Kurt Opsahl and Rainey Reitman | Electronic Frontier Foundation | May 4, 2014

Last week, the White House released its report on big data and its privacy implications, the result of a 90-day study commissioned by President Obama during his January 17 speech on NSA surveillance reforms. Now that we’ve had a chance to read the report we’d like to share our thoughts on what we liked, what we didn’t, and what we thought was missing.

What We Liked

Support for ECPA Reform

We were happy to see that the report recognized that email privacy is critical, and the law should “ensure the standard of protection for online, digital content is consistent with that afforded in the physical world—including by removing archaic distinctions between email left unread or over a certain age.” As we have argued, and courts have agreed, law enforcement should be required to get a warrant before reading your email, regardless of where it’s stored or how long it’s been there.

Congress has been grappling with this issue for many years now because the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) purports to permit law enforcement to access emails without a warrant in certain situations. Right now, Congress is considering powerful bipartisan legislation that would help bring our outdated email privacy law into alignment with Fourth Amendment case law. We’re supporting the bill, and the White House should too...