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Apple, Dropbox join Electronic Privacy Act fight

The companies have signed on with the Electronic Frontier Foundation-sponsored Digital Due Process with other major firms, including Amazon. The organization argues the privacy act is sorely in need of an update.

Apple and Dropbox have joined the Digital Due Process coalition, according to an announcement yesterday from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the sponsors of the group.

Digital Due Process is made up of a host of organizations and companies, including the EFF, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Amazon, that have publicly noted their disapproval of the treatment of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) on the part of law enforcement officials.

The ECPA was passed in 1986, and since then, few modifications have been made to it to adequately govern the changing times in technology, the EFF argues. The organization pointed out in its announcement yesterday that the ECPA fails to address location-based services, doesn't provide guidelines on whether the government needs a warrant to track cell phones, and fails to adequately protect folks from the seizure of personal e-mails and instant-messaging chats.

"It's past time that Congress gave ECPA a much-needed digital upgrade so that it better fits the always-on, location-enabled technological landscape of the 21st century," the EFF said in a statement on the matter. "That's why DDP is pushing for amendments to ECPA to ensure that the government can't track your cell phone or obtain your online content--like your private emails, social network messages, photos, search history, word processing documents and backup files--without first going to court to get a search warrant based on probable cause."

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Neither Apple nor Dropbox issued statements on the decision to join DDP. Neither immediately responded to CNET's request for comment.

In the EFF's eyes, the companies are at least moving in the right direction. In April, the EFF launched a petition to some of the largest tech companies, asking them to be "transparent in their practices." Apple and Dropbox were among the companies included in that list. Until yesterday, however, neither Apple nor Dropbox had received a single "gold star" for any of the four goals the EFF is challenging the firms to achieve: "Tell users about data demands"; "Be transparent about government requests"; "Fight for user privacy in the courts"; and "Fight for user privacy in Congress."

EFF has awarded both Apple and Dropbox a gold star for the last item since their move to join the DDP, .

Although Apple and Dropbox have some work cut out for them in the EFF's eyes, they're not alone. AT&T, Facebook, Microsoft, and Yahoo also only have one star out of a possible four, and Amazon only has two. Google, however, has earned at least half-a-star in each of the four categories--the only company to achieve that feat.

Looking ahead, the EFF said Digital Due Process' goal is to get "a good bill passed by Congress and signed by the president." And having Apple and Dropbox on its side, the EFF said, is reassuring as it takes on Congress once again.