WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, TechFreedom led a coalition of free market groups urging Congress to protect privacy online by updating America’s woefully outdated privacy law. The letter opens:
We, the undersigned, write in support of a simple principle: that law enforcement must convince a judge to issue a warrant before obtaining emails and the contents of other private online communications. This principle, enshrined in the Fourth Amendment — and before that, in the June, 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights — is the crown jewel of American civil liberties. Yet it is not given effect in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the 1986 law that governs law enforcement access to digital communications.
“Despite having overwhelming bipartisan support, ECPA reform has stalled over stubborn resistance from regulators that want an exemption from a warrant requirement,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. “A carveout for regulatory agencies would allow the IRS, EPA, SEC and an endless string of state agencies to obtain sensitive personal information unrelated to investigations — including personal emails sent from work addresses. This burden would fall most heavily on small businesses, which are far more likely to rely on cloud email services than large businesses, which can host their own email.”
“Some law enforcement agencies want an exception for ‘emergency situations,’ but they simply haven’t shown that there’s a problem that needs solving,” continued Szoka. “Current law authorizes voluntary disclosure by companies. But this provision was written back in 1986, when courts were frequently unavailable. Today, Article III judges are available around the clock to issue warrants. Requiring disclosure in ‘emergency situations’ will incentivize agencies to ‘cry wolf’ in order to avoid judicial oversight. We urge Congress to move forward on ECPA reform without unnecessary exceptions to warrant requirements and other destructive amendments.”
The letters signatories include TechFreedom, 60 Plus Association, American Commitment, American Consumer Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights, Citizen Outreach, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Digital Liberty, FreedomWorks, Frontiers of Freedom, Heritage Action for America, Institute for Liberty, Institute for Policy Innovation, Less Government, Liberty Coalition, National Taxpayers Union, Niskanen Center, R Street, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, and The Rutherford Institute