WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Reps. Jared Polis and Kevin Yoder reintroduced the Email Privacy Act (2015 version), which would require law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing our emails and other electronic communications. The bill, first introduced in 2013, fixes a loophole in the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that allows law enforcement to access emails stored on a third-party server longer than 180 days without a warrant.
Last spring, the House passed the bill unanimously 418-0, but the bill’s progress stalled in the Senate. Senator Cornyn (R-TX) moved to attach an amendment that would have allowed the FBI to warrantlessly collect email metadata and other information using National Security Letters, which can be approved within the Bureau with little oversight.
“This no-brainer reform is the easiest way for Trump to begin healing any perceived rifts with tech companies and privacy advocates,” said TechFreedom President Berin Szóka. “The bill passed unanimously with good reason: the protections Congress created in ECPA 30 years ago no longer reflect how people use email and cloud storage.”
“The Senate’s been playing a dangerous game,” said Evan Swarztrauber, Communications Director at TechFreedom. “Constitutional principles against warrantless searches shouldn’t be a bargaining chip for expanding warrantless surveillance in other areas. Congress should act quickly to show the American people that bipartisanship is not only possible, but a defining characteristic of our future tech policy.”
“Let’s not forget that this bill only fixes half of ECPA,” warned Szóka. “Congress will still need to draft appropriate privacy protections for geolocation data. ECPA doesn’t cover those — a gap that even the most conservative Supreme Court Justices have already called on Congress to fix. So the sooner Congress enacts privacy protections for email and other stored content, the sooner it can move on to the thorny question mobile privacy.”
Three geolocation privacy bills are currently stalled in the House and Senate. The first two enjoy bipartisan support: The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (GPS Act) was first introduced in June 2011 and the Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act was introduced in 2012. Sen. Al Franken first introduced the Location Privacy Protection Act in 2013.