House passes EPA in unanimous vote

The House's unanimous vote to pass the EPA takes the fight for requiring law enforcement to get warrants to access electronic correspondence to the Senate.
The House's unanimous vote to pass the EPA takes the fight for requiring law enforcement to get warrants to access electronic correspondence to the Senate.

The House's unanimous vote to pass the Email Privacy Act (EPA), a reformation of the aging Electronics Privacy Act (ECPA) drew immediate praise from privacy rights groups and hope that the Senate would be just as quick to act.

"With the rise of cloud computing, our emails, photos and texts are stored with third parties. In order for the law to keep up with technology and users' reasonable expectation of privacy, that information must be protected by a search warrant,” Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), said in a statement emailed to SCMagazine.com. “That's the same constitutional standard that protects the information we store in our homes."

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) Vice President Daniel Castro, referring to the legislation in a statement emailed to SCMagazine.comn as “a long overdue remedy to the loopholes” in the ECPA that gave different treatment to data stored in the cloud than that stored on a personal computer, said the “legislation will help bridge that divide.”

Calabrese, who acknowledged that the bill is not perfect, said “it addresses core law enforcement concerns and protects our privacy.”

It also reflects the “public's strong belief that the government must respect and protect privacy rights in the digital age,” Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said in a statement.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill, H.R.699, April 13 and proponents encouraged House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to bring it to a vote quickly. The bill passed by the House Wednesday would require a warrant be obtained by law enforcement for accessing anyone's electronic correspondence.

The Digital 4th coalition issued a statement calling the “overwhelming, bipartisan approval” of the EPA “a major victory in the effort to secure our digital privacy rights” in accordance with the protections offered by the Fourth Amendment.  

Calabrese urged the Senate to “build on this momentum and make the Email Privacy Act law” with Guliani calling on senators to not only pass the bill but “strengthen it by including a requirement that the government inform people when it forces companies to turn over their information.”

More than a quarter of U.S. senators currently are co-sponsors of companion legislation to the EPA, enough support for the chamber to tackle the issue, Digital 4th said, and reform the ECPA “once and for all.”

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