A United States law signed by President Ronald Reagan on October 21, 1986. Sometimes referred to as the ECPA. Provided the following changes to federal law:
- Expands the privacy protection requirements of Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to include the non voice portion of a wire communication including electronic communication, which is defined as "any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sound, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectric or photo-optical system." e.g. email, paging, wireless, and fiber optic networks.
- Extends privacy protection beyond major telephone networks to the use of all carriers, including private telephone systems, branch exchanges, and local area networks.
- Defines voice and digital display pagers as "a continuation of an original wire communication" and provides privacy protection to such devices.
- Identifies the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 as the policy for home reception of unencrypted cable satellite programming.
After the ECPA was enacted, it became necessary in most cases, for law enforcement personnel to obtain a warrant for surveillance of non voice electronic communication. More recently the Patriot Act reversed the requirement for federal law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants in many cases involving electronic surveillance.