4 U.S. Internet laws you should know

If you company has facilities in the United States or is doing business in the country, your organization could be impacted by these four American laws that deal with digital information and the Internet.

U.S. President Barack Obama outlines his cyber security plan during his State of the nation address

In a recent article, online technology publication Networkworld.com listed four laws that are either being actively debated or expected to come up for consideration by U.S. lawmakers:

Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) – Passed in 1986, this lawful access legislation sets the standards on how the government can access digital information of citizens. ECPA empowers the government to obtain access, with only a subpoena and not a warrant, to digital communication such as email, Facebook messages, data in public cloud databases and other digital files that are 180 days old. A part of the law also states that the government has access to cell phones using GPS tracking.

There are moves to update the law. Last year the Senate Judicary Committee passed an update to ECPA but that proposed act failed to reach a vote on the Senate floor. The House of Representatives filed an update to ECPA last month and that is expected to be debated soon.

Cyber Intelligence Sharing Protection Act (CISPA) – The proposed CISPA dictates how companies shares with the government data concerning cyber threats. The information turned over the companies goes to the National Security Administration which is a military division of the government.

Opponents of the law are concerned that there is little transparency on what the NSA does and so they are worried CISPA does not provide adequate privacy protection

CISPA has gained bipartisan support. It is to be debated in by legislators within the next few months.

Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) – The CFAA makes it a crime to access and share protected information. For years, organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have called for CFAA reforms to reduce penalties for CFAA violations and create clearer definitions of what a CFAA breach is. Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit was facing prosecution for a CFAA violation when he committed suicide this year.

Trans Pacific-Partnership Agreement (TPP) – The TPP deals with digital copyright laws. The agreement involves the U.S. Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and New Zealand. Canada and Japan are expected to be part of the agreement soon.

The TPP could see U.S. intellectual property standards reinforced and extended to other countries. Digital rights groups are worried the TPP will result in restrictions to so-called “fair use” of copyrighted content. They are also concerned that much of the TPP discussions and held in secret.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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