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McVeigh v. Cohen

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Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) began as an "anti-wiretapping" law, and was intended to curtail the government's ability to wiretap telephone conversations without the consent of the parties. The need for this protection from government eavesdropping became clear after the Watergate scandal during President Nixon's administration in the 1960s. The original act demanded a "judicial warrant" be issued before telephone conversations could be intercepted.

In 1986, President Reagan signed the ECPA extending the areas of protection. In addition to previous provisions against government wiretapping of telephones, all types of electronic communications are protected from eavesdropping. No data or voice transmissions may legally be listened in on by any individual or business. In addition to public and private telecommunications carriers and computer transmittals, also included are communications transmitted on pagers, electronic mail (e-mail), and cell phones. The act also prohibits "unauthorized access" to any stored messages on a server, as well as prohibiting the "interception" of any communications in process.

Some limitations in the act may allow an employer to review an employee's e-mail, or a system operator to turn over information to authorities if an e-mail message suggests illegal activity.




Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentMcVeigh v. Cohen - Significance, "boysrch"--or, The Other Timothy Mcveigh, Judge Sporkin Rules, Judge Sporkin's Ruling And The Continuing Saga