What is Private, and What is Protected, in the Privacy Protection Act?

By Priscilla Adams
July 20, 2009
The Privacy Protection Act (PPA) labors under a bit of a misnomer; for what it primarily protects is First Amendment freedom-of-the-press values, not privacy. The PPA is a “gap-filler,” enacted to aff ord “the press and certain other persons not suspected of committing a crime with protections not provided… by the Fourth Amendment.” Limited by a few enumerated exceptions, the PPA prohibits a government offi cer or employee in connection with the investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense from searching for and then seizing work product or documentary materials possessed by a person in connection with a purpose to disseminate information to the public. The Act applies to law enforcement at every level of government and limits the use of search warrants when seeking to obtain evidence from those engaged in First Amendment activities...