Google, tech groups oppose SEC's request for exemption from email privacy bill

Google voiced support for the Email Privacy Act and expressed opposition to the SEC’s request for exemption from the bill.
Google voiced support for the Email Privacy Act and expressed opposition to the SEC’s request for exemption from the bill.

During a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on Email Privacy Act, Google along with tech and legal advocates voiced support for the Email Privacy Act and expressed opposition to the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) request for exemption from the bill.

The privacy bill amending the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 is supported by more than 300 members of the House of Representatives.

Richard Salgado, Google's director for law enforcement and information security, challenged the SEC's request and asked why “the agency can't just serve legal process on the user like every other litigant” requiring witnesses and defendants. “The notion raises the specter of providers, large and small, conscripted into serving as civil discovery vendors, unnecessarily placed in the middle of messy and protracted litigation of others,” he said in his prepared testimony.

Andrew J. Ceresney, director of the SEC's Enforcement Division said the agency is “concerned” by the effect a warrant requirement would have on its civil operations. “Criminal search warrants are only available if an investigator can show probable cause that a crime has occurred,” he said during testimony before the committee. “Lacking warrant authority, civil investigators enforcing civil rights, environmental, antitrust, and a host of other laws would be left unable to obtain stored communications content from providers.”

“The distinctions that ECPA made in 1986 were foresighted in light of technology at the time,” said Google's Salgado. “Users expect, as they should, that the documents they store online have the same Fourth Amendment protections as they do when the government wants to enter the home to seize documents stored in a desk drawer.”

In a September blog post, Salgado wrote, “Congress should reject these efforts to expand the authority of these agencies, and should remain focused on fixing this broken statute.”

The Center for Democracy and Technology's VP of policy Chris Calabrese and Red Branch Consulting founder Paul Rosenzweig also testified at the hearing.


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