A coalition of technology companies, privacy groups and academics has called for an update of US law that defines the rules for government access to e-mail and private files stored in the internet cloud.
The coalition, which includes Google, Microsoft, Intel and eBay, said there is a need to preserve traditional privacy rights in the face of technological change.
The group aims to simplify, clarify, and unify US privacy standards to provide stronger protection for communications and associated data in response to changes in technology and new services and usage patterns, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public.
The group said in order for the technology industry to be able to innovate, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act passed in 1986 needs to be updated.
"Technology has changed dramatically in the last 20 years, but the law has not," said Jim Dempsey, vice-president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology.
"The traditional standard for the government to search your home or office and read your mail or seize your personal papers is a judicial warrant. The law needs to be clear that the same standard applies to e-mail and documents stored with a service provider, while at the same time be flexible enough to meet law enforcement needs," he said.
The group is lobbying government officials and hopes to hold talks with law enforcement agencies to develop consensus on updates to the law.
The coalition has launched a Digital Due Processcampaign, which it described as "an effort to modernise surveillance laws for the internet age".