5 Comm. Law. 1 (1987)

handle is hein.journals/comlaw5 and id is 1 raw text is: Communications
Publication of the Forum Committee  f l
on Communications Law
American Bar Association
Volume 5, Number 1, Winter 1987  Wi  g

Communications Privacy

When the Electronic Communica-
tions Privacy Act, Public Law 99-
508, took effect on January 20, 1987
our country took a giant step into
the twenty-first century by affording
adequate protection for users of
modern telecommunications. The
new law creates statutory protec-
tions against unauthorized private
and governmental access to elec-
tronic mail, satellite transmissions,
and computer communications. This
article will assess what Congress
perceived as the need for legislation,
describe the legislative process, and
finally, summarize the new law.

The Fourth Amendment of the
Constitution acts to guard against
the arbitrary use of government
power by protecting houses, pa-
pers and effects. During the inter-
vening  two   centuries, new
communication techniques and
surveillance devices have in-
creased the opportunity for such
intrusions. Until recently, legal
protection against the unreason-
able use of such surveillance tech-
niques has not kept pace with
technology. When Congress passed
the Electronic Communications
Privacy Act, it cured the existing

deficiencies and set a guide for fu-
ture conduct.
When Congress enacted Title III of
the Omnibus Crime Control and
Safe Streets Act of 1968, which has
come to be known as the Wiretap
Act, it addressed the problem of
electronic surveillance in a com-
prehensive fashion. That legisla-
tion protected two common types
of communication-telephone
conversations and face-to-face oral
communications-against elec-
tronic eavesdropping. Specifically,
Continued on page 20

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