Phone: 612-624-5551
unews@umn.edu
24-hr number: 612-293-0831

Advanced Search

Expert Alert.

Expert Alert

U of M Law professor available to discuss U.S. Senate debate on bill to change cell phone, email and video rental privacy

Comprehensive rethink of electronic privacy, from smart phones to email to social media needed

November 27, 2012

University of Minnesota Law School Professor William McGeveran, a privacy expert and researcher on current rules governing digital identity and intellectual property law

Professor William McGeveran is available to discuss action expected by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday – and likely the full U.S. Senate soon after – to amend several key privacy laws. The most significant move would rewrite the “180 day rule” from the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). That loophole allows warrantless searches of emails and voice mails more than six months old. “In the age of cloud computing, people routinely store their most significant messages online, sometimes for years,” McGeveran says. “So this update is sorely needed.” The issue has attracted particular attention in the wake of concerns about law enforcement access to emails in the recent David Petraeus investigation.

At the same time, the U.S. Senate will also consider weakening protections in another law, the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which requires customers’ consent before revealing the movies they watch. Netflix and other video companies say the amendment updates the law for use in social media, but McGeveran considers this change both unnecessary and unwise.

“This law just shifts the burden – instead of pushing an extra button to tell your friends what movies you watch, you will have to press a button to keep it private,” he says. “So-called ‘frictionless sharing’ isn’t sharing at all, because it isn’t based on a real choice to disclose something to your friends.”

“What’s really needed is a comprehensive rethink of electronic privacy, from smart phones to email to social media,” McGeveran says. “At the moment, Congress is only making tweaks, and horse-trading to improve some privacy rules and weaken others.

McGeveran is a privacy expert and researcher on current rules governing digital identity and intellectual property law. He testified in January before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, chaired by U.S. Sen. Al Franken, on the proposed changes to the VPPA. He’s a frequent media expert and blogger on such topics as the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, social networks privacy and intellectual property. Earlier in his career he worked as a Capitol Hill aide for six years.

To schedule an interview with Professor McGeveran, contact Cynthia Huff, Law School, huffx070@umn.edu, 612-625-6691 or Patty Mattern, U News Service mattern@umn.edu, 612-624-2801.

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit umn.edu/news. Views expressed by experts do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Minnesota.
 

Tags: Law School

Share This Story

Related Links

Past interview with Professor McGeveran on social media privacy issues