Press Releases

DelBene Lauds Long-Awaited Progress on Email Privacy Act

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Washington, DC, April 13, 2016 | comments

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today celebrated the long-awaited House Judiciary Committee passage of the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699). This legislation would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the main statute governing law enforcement access to digital records and content, such as email. The bill would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to access emails. Current law allows law enforcement to obtain emails from third party providers without a warrant if they are older than 180 days.

“Updating ECPA has been one of my top priorities since being elected to Congress, because after spending two decades in the tech sector, I couldn’t believe our current email privacy law dated to the 1980s. I worked on email in those days, and so much has changed since with cloud computing and smartphones putting our lives online to a degree lawmakers never contemplated back then,” DelBene said. “I’ve supported a number of different proposals for ECPA reform, each with its own merits, but I believe today’s passage of the Email Privacy Act is a great step forward for both Americans’ civil liberties and the competitiveness of the U.S. technology sector. With today’s vote, we are one step closer to eliminating the artificial distinction between a piece of paper in a filing cabinet and an email on a server. Moving forward, I’ll continue working with my colleagues to address other critical ECPA-related issues like protecting our geolocation information and data stored overseas.”

H.R. 699 has more than 300 House cosponsors and is endorsed by a broad range of civil liberties and technology industry stakeholders, including the ACLU, Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter.

The legislation would:

  • Eliminate the arbitrary “180 day rule” for emails older than 180 days
  • Require a warrant for obtaining content from providers
  • Allow providers to notify customers when government has requested their data
  • Allow government to seek a judge-ordered delay of notification in special circumstances

DelBene has cosponsored several bills, including the Email Privacy Act, to update ECPA to ensure Americans’ privacy is protected. She has long demanded Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA-06) make this a priority for the Judiciary Committee.

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