Congress

Congress should reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to ensure that citizens have a right to privacy for their electronic data whether it is stored at home on a PC or remotely in the cloud.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was enacted in 1986 and has not kept pace with the advancement of technology. For example, there are different levels of protection afforded to the privacy of an individual’s data based on where the data is stored and how long the data has been stored. This means that the privacy of a person’s email may be different if it is stored on his or her PC versus if it is stored in the cloud. In the former case law enforcement might need a search warrant based on probable cause to review the data, but in the latter law enforcement would only need a subpoena. Reform is needed in this area to protect Fourth Amendment rights. Where possible, the privacy of an individual’s communication should be the same regardless of the type of technology that is used to facilitate this communication.

Congress should strengthen the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to establish greater penalties and make it easier to prosecute criminals who hack into cloud computing services.

Strengthening the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) will make it easier to prosecute criminals who hack into cloud computing services. Congress should change the CFAA to make penalties for hacking into an online service correspond to the number of accounts illegally accessed on an online service rather than limit them to the penalties for hacking into a single PC.

Congress should fund a program to consolidate and improve existing federal efforts at the FDA, CDC, and USDA to use IT to modernize food safety and public health data.

Policymakers should recognize the important role that information technology (IT) can and should play in improving public safety and health by making available real-time data on food products from farm to fork. Most of the pieces of the puzzle are already here, although some, like electronic health records are still in development. However, we need national leadership to focus on connecting the pieces. requiring the relevant federal agencies to create common formats to facilitate information sharing among laboratories, improve recordkeeping to allow faster tracking and tracing of contaminated food, and further develop and improve surveillance systems to more rapidly detect and respond to foodborne illness outbreaks.