House Passes Email Privacy
February 13, 2017
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Email
Privacy Act (H.R. 387) by a voice vote with no objections. This
bill passed the House of Representatives unanimously last year.
It will close a loophole in the 30-year-old Electronic
Communications Privacy Act of 1986 which now allows law
enforcement to obtain the content of internet users’
communications without a warrant after 180 days. The Email
Privacy Act establishes a warrant-for-content requirement no
matter how old the communication is.
This bill would bring
the law into line with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment
and the modern privacy expectations of people who increasingly
store private communications, documents and pictures in the
Internet ‘cloud’ and expect that their information will be safe
against unreasonable searches and seizures. New America’s Open
Technology Institute supports the Email Privacy Act.
Schulman, Senior Counsel at Open Technology Institute said, “The
Open Technology Institute applauds the House of Representatives
passage of the Email Privacy Act for the second year in a row.
The Email Privacy Act is not only essential legislation to
protect Americans’ privacy, it’s also the most widely supported
bill in Congress. The Senate should follow suit and pass it
quickly, and without any poison pill amendments, like the
surveillance expansions that were considered last Congress.”
Christian Dawson, Co-Founder
and Executive Director with Internet Infrastructure Coalition
added, "The next step for ECPA reform is again in the Senate. To
date, we have had many members spending countless hours
advocating in person and by mail on ECPA. We will need to lean
on each of you to do the same in our effort to get this ECPA
reform on the President’s desk.
It is hard to overstate the importance of ECPA reform to
Internet Infrastructure Providers, but we’d like to take a
moment to explain why it is particularly important to us.
While the deficiencies in ECPA in general are well documented,
two issues are troublesome for our members in particular:
ECPA significantly increases costs for Internet infrastructure
providers by creating a complex set of rules for access to data.
These rules do not reflect the current use of technology. This
makes developing compliance plans difficult and increases the
possibility that sensitive information will be disclosed.
Warrantless access to data by U.S. law enforcement entities
discourages the adoption of cloud technology.
a result of our role in the middle of most Internet
transactions, Internet infrastructure providers receive a
significant number of requests from law enforcement for
information about their customers. Most have compliance plans
designed to ensure that they comply with the laws governing
their businesses, their customer expectations, and their privacy
policies. A law that requires us to distinguishes between email
that has been on a server for more than 180 days, or is in the
trash, is generally unworkable.
ECPA is also inconsistent with and threatens the enterprising
nature of, the Internet and the cloud computing industry.
According to Gartner, Cloud services are a $200+ billion
industry. Without updated privacy laws to provide online
customers with the same legal protections they could get
off-line, we risk losing thousands of jobs — and our ability to
compete in the global marketplace. ECPA reform sends a strong
message to the marketplace that Congress cares and understands
that law enforcement access to data is one of the most important
marketplace issues that our members face."