US Justice Department Largely Opposed to Digital Privacy Reforms

The US Justice Department doesn’t appear friendly to the prospect of digital privacy reform.

Formally responding for the first time to a slate of proposals created last year by a coalition of prominent businesses and other organizations (like AT&T, Google, Microsoft, etc,), James Baker, the associate deputy attorney general, informed a Senate committee this week that new privacy laws could possibly hamper police investigations.

Baker, for example, argued that requiring a search warrant to access e-mail records is just one way in which new proposals, if enacted, would limit “the government’s ability to obtain important information in investigations of serious crimes.”

The government’s ability to access, review, analyze, and act promptly upon the communications of criminals that we acquire lawfully, as well as data pertaining to such communications, is vital to our mission to protect the public from terrorists, spies, organized criminals, kidnappers, and other malicious actors.

The full text of Baker’s comments can be read here.

As expected, it doesn’t appear that the US Justice Department is wholly supportive of rewriting the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which pre-dates the dawn of the internet and the modern telecommunications age.

Asserting that new rules could mean greater lag times in solving and preventing crimes, Baker urged lawmakers to realize that “speed is essential,” adding that “If Congress slows down the process, this would have real-life consequences, particularly where human life is involved.”