# Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)

# Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Initialisms

Short Form Full Form
ECPA Electronic Communication Privacy Act
SCA Stored Communications Act
U.S.C. United States Code

# Overview

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) protects wire, oral, and electronic communications while those communications are being made, are in transit, and when they are stored on computers. The Act applies to email, telephone conversations, and data stored electronically.

# Specific Provisions

The ECPA has three titles:

Title I of the ECPA, which is often referred to as the Wiretap Act, prohibits the intentional actual or attempted interception, use, disclosure, or "procure[ment] [of] any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication." Title I also prohibits the use of illegally obtained communications as evidence.

Title II of the ECPA, which is called the Stored Communications Act (SCA, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 121 §§ 2701–2713), protects the privacy of the contents of files stored by service providers and of records held about the subscriber by service providers, such as subscriber name, billing records, or IP addresses.

The SCA contains 13 sections:

  • § 2701. Unlawful access to stored communications
  • § 2702. Voluntary disclosure of customer communications or records
  • § 2703. Required disclosure of customer communications or records
  • § 2704. Backup preservation
  • § 2705. Delayed notice
  • § 2706. Cost reimbursement
  • § 2707. Civil action
  • § 2708. Exclusivity of remedies
  • § 2709. Counterintelligence access to telephone toll and transactional records
  • § 2710. Wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records
  • § 2711. Definitions for chapter
  • § 2712. Civil actions against the United States
  • § 2713. Required preservation and disclosure of communications and records

Title III of the ECPA, which addresses pen register and trap and trace devices, requires government entities to obtain a court order authorizing the installation and use of a pen register (a device that captures the dialed numbers and related information to which outgoing calls or communications are made by the subject) and/or a trap and trace (a device that captures the numbers and related information from which incoming calls and communications coming to the subject have originated).

# Noteworthy

  • SCA addresses voluntary and compelled disclosure of "stored wire and electronic communications and transactional records."

# Sources