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Orin Kerr’s Presentation on the Next Generation Privacy Act

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The following is a guest post by Cynthia Jordan, Senior Writer-Editor at the Law Library of Congress.

On Monday, September 30, 2013, the Law Library of Congress presented the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation Program on Demography, Technology, and Criminal Justice program at the Library of Congress.  The lecture, titled “The Next Generation Privacy Act,” was given by Professor Orin S. Kerr, the Library of Congress Guggenheim Scholar-in-Residence.

At the lecture, Kerr discussed his work, “The Next Generation Privacy Act,” which proposes that Congress should repeal the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) and replace it with a new statute that reflects current technologies and addresses privacy threats.  The final draft of his paper has been accepted for publication in the University Of Pennsylvania Law Review (forthcoming 2013).

Scholar-in-residence Orin Kerr speaks at the September 30, 2013 event. Photo Credit: Shealah Craighead.

Kerr asserted that the ECPA was designed to address privacy issues raised by the technology available at the time; in 1986 the internet and mobile communications networks we know today, were still the stuff of science fiction. Storage of data was expensive, for example, and the wireless network was limited in both its reach and use by the public.  He focused on the differences between the types of technology (such as telephones and printed emails) discussed by the drafters of the original ECPA and those in existence today. Kerr suggested that as a result of this actuality and widespread use of new technology, there is a need to change the rules that the government relies upon to obtain information about someone believed to be engaged in criminal activity.  These new rules would include those to be followed by law enforcement (such as the requirement of a warrant to obtain information) in forcing internet service providers and communications networks to provide records of emails, IP addresses, internet activity and telephone location information.  The new rules Kerr proposes would also provide legal guidelines and privacy protections that the current legislation does not, as a result of which courts have had to resolve legal challenges to law enforcement data seizure actions in a piecemeal manner.

The lecture was well attended, and the audience engaged Professor Kerr in a lively discussion during the question and answer session.  The lecture was also streamed live, allowing those unable to attend in person an opportunity to attend the lecture virtually.  After the lecture everyone joined Kerr for a luncheon where we had a wonderful time getting to know him better.  I’d like to say thank you to all of you who attended the lecture, you made this an excellent event!

We are grateful to the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation for their generous support of this program.


Update: The event video was added below.



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