Press Releases

DelBene Cosponsors Privacy Bills

The bills aim to protect consumers’ electronic data from warrantless government surveillance

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) cosponsored four bills this week to protect consumers’ privacy from unwarranted electronic data collection by the federal government.

“Advances in technology and the Internet have dramatically changed the way we communicate, live and work. In this constantly evolving world, Congress must be a good steward of policy to ensure our laws at least keep pace,” DelBene said. “We need to pass measures that protect consumers’ private information while also encouraging new technological innovations.”

The Online Communication and Geolocation Protection Act (H.R. 656) would update a decades old communications privacy law to better shield Internet users and wireless subscribers from overly broad government surveillance programs. The bill modernizes the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) by requiring government agencies to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause prior to intercepting or forcing disclosure of electronic communications, such as email and texts, or geolocation data.

“When current law affords more protections for a letter in a filing cabinet than an email on a server, it’s clear our policies are outdated,” DelBene said. “This bill will update privacy protections for consumers while resolving competing interests between innovation, international competitiveness and public safety.”

DelBene also sponsored the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder (KS-03) that ends ECPA’s provision allowing the government access to emails stored in third-party clouds that are older than 180-days without a warrant, but it doesn’t include protections for geolocation data.

Descriptions of the other electronic privacy bills DelBene cosponsored with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) follow:

  • The Surveillance Order Reporting Act (H.R. 689) protects and encourages electronic service providers to publicly report when the government demands information under surveillance laws even if the provider would otherwise be prohibited by such surveillance laws from reporting that information.
  • The Secure Data Act (H.R. 726) would prohibit a federal agency from requiring a software or electronic device maker – such as smart phones makers – to allow the surveillance of users.

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