OVERNIGHT TECH: Norquist and ACLU push for email privacy

THE LEDE: Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and Laura Murphy, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington office, penned a joint op-ed on The Hill's Congress Blog on Monday calling for better legal protections for email privacy.

They acknowledged that while they disagree on many issues, they both believe that Congress should approve legislation from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up Leahy's bill on Thursday.

Under current law, police only need an administrative subpoena, issued without a judge's approval, to read emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old. Police simply swear an email is relevant to an investigation, and then obtain a subpoena to force an Internet company to turn it over.

Leahy's revision would require police to obtain warrants to read private emails, regardless of how old they are or whether they were opened. 

"Today, if the police want to come into your house and take your personal letters, they need a warrant. If they want to read those same letters saved on Google or Yahoo they don’t. The Fourth Amendment has eroded online," Norquist and Murphy wrote.

They argued that the bill would be good for business by offering clear and consistent privacy protections for cloud computing, a booming industry.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Judiciary Committee's top Republican, expressed skepticism about creating new barriers for police investigations at a committee meeting in September.

But Norquist and Murphy argued that the legislation would not impede police investigation and would actually reform confusing rules for police.

"In fact, ECPA is currently comprised of a confusing mix of different standards created by an outdated statute and a variety of federal court decisions," they wrote. "These rules are hard for law enforcement and companies to interpret and often lead to delay and confusion. Legislative reform will create certainty for individuals, companies, and law enforcement alike."

Leahy is offering his legislation as an amendment to H.R. 2471, a House bill that loosens video privacy requirements.

Leahy released a statement on Monday reiterating his commitment to sending the bill to the Senate floor on Thursday. 

"I join the many privacy advocates, technology leaders, legal scholars and other stakeholders who support reforming ECPA to improve privacy rights in cyberspace. I hope that all members of the Committee will join me in supporting the effort in Congress to update this law to protect Americans’ privacy,” the senator said.

Facebook responds to copyright notice hoax: Facebook responded on Monday to a message that users have been posting on their profiles that falsely claims to give them ownership of the material they post.

The message, full of legal-sounding phrases, is the latest hoax to make the rounds on the social media site. A similar message claims to give users enhanced privacy protections if they post it on their profile.

Snopes, a website devoted to examining Internet rumors, has debunked both messages. 

Facebook said the rumor that it has changed its users' ownership of information is "false."

"Anyone who uses Facebook owns and controls the content and information they post, as stated in our terms. They control how that content and information is shared. That is our policy, and it always has been," the company wrote in a statement.

But ABC News notes that users give Facebook a "non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, worldwide license" to use the content they post.

Van Hollen gives glowing review of Reed Hundt's book: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said on Monday that the e-book The Politics of Abundance offers a "thoughtful, forward-looking and optimistic prescription for President Obama’s second term."

Van Hollen wrote a note to his Democratic colleagues recommending that they read the book, which was authored by Reed Hundt, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and Blair Levin, a former top FCC official.

"Drawing on lessons learned from the boom years of the Clinton Administration, Hundt and Levin argue for an investment-led approach to economic growth, job creation and debt reduction – with special emphasis on the unprecedented opportunity they see in our technology and clean energy sectors," Van Hollen wrote.

Patent chief to step down: David Kappos, the director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, will step down by the end of January, an agency spokesman confirmed on Monday.

Kappos was a vocal proponent of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which President Obama signed into law last year. The measure overhauled the country's patent laws, switching from a "first to invent" to a "first to file" system.

'Cyber Monday' crackdown: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and European officials seized 132 websites on Monday for allegedly selling counterfeit merchandise in a coordinated crackdown timed to coincide with the holiday shopping season.

It is the third straight year that the government has seized websites on "Cyber Monday" — the marketing term for the Monday after Thanksgiving, when many online retailers offer steep discounts and promotions.

Google deal with Wi-Fi company is fake: ICOA, a Wi-Fi hotspot provider, contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday after a press release falsely claimed that Google had agreed to buy the company for $400 million.

Both companies confirmed there was never any deal.

CFTC sues Intrade: The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) accused the online betting site Intrade on Monday of allowing U.S. customers to make illegal trades on the price of gold and other currencies.