The Fight Over Email Privacy Moves to the Senate

Posted by Zarathustra 2:10 PM (CST)

Tuesday February 07, 2017

The Electronic Frontier Foundation today posted a statement about how the house passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387). This law is intended to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 1986 pre-Internet era law that currently governs, among other things, email privacy. Among it's key weaknesses is the fact that the ECPA allows the government to obtain electronic communications older than 180 days without a warrant.

Similar legislation unanimously passed the house last year under the same name, as H.R. 699, but later stalled in the Senate. It will be interesting to see how it fares this time around.

We’ve long called for pro-privacy reforms to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the outdated law that provides little protection for "cloud" content stored by third-party service providers. H.R. 387 would codify the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in U.S. v. Warshak, which held that the Fourth Amendment demands that the government first obtain a warrant based on probable cause before accessing emails stored with cloud service providers. While imperfectآ—the House-passed bill doesn’t require the government to notify users when it obtains their data from companies like Googleآ—the reforms in the Email Privacy Act are a necessary step in the right direction.