Press Releases

DelBene Joins Colleagues in Reintroducing the Email Privacy Act

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Washington, DC, January 9, 2017 | comments

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers in reintroducing the Email Privacy Act. 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 our laws to reflect the way the world works in the 21st century has been one of my top priorities in Congress. After spending two decades in the technology sector where things evolve at light speed, it is hard to believe that we’re starting another year with laws that were written for how computing worked in the 1980s. Meanwhile, cloud-based services become more ubiquitous with every passing day, highlighting the absurdity that current law provides greater protections for a letter in a filing cabinet than an email on a server,” DelBene said. “The Email Privacy Act is an overdue step forward for protecting Americans’ civil liberties in the digital age. I hope House and Senate leaders will act swiftly to get this legislation across the finish line and I will continue working to address other critical ECPA-related issues like geolocation information and data stored overseas.”

Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Jared Polis (D-CO) reintroduced the Email Privacy Act today. Last year, the bill passed the House in a 419-0 vote but the Senate failed to act. The legislation 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

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