Protected Internet Communication

Electronic communication is defined in broad terms as “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system.” Thus the ECPA extends privacy protection to everything from e-mail to drawings, pictures, and sounds as well. For communication to receive the law’s protection, it cannot be simply sent between two computers: the communication must take place in the course of interstate or foreign commerce.

However, numerous exceptions are spelled out in the law. These fall into three categories:

  • Limited exceptions allowing employees of network services access to communication under specific circumstances
  • Broad workplace exceptions allowing employers access to employee e-mail
  • Conditional government authority to carry out criminal investigations

Inside Protected Internet Communication