In a voice vote Monday in favor of the Email Privacy Act, the House moved law enforcement one step closer to having to obtain warrants to search information, including email, that has been stored with third parties for more than six months.
“We applaud the House for passing the Email Privacy Act. As we continue to rely more and more on electronic communication, we need an upgrade to the Fourth Amendment,” FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon said of the bill, the proposed update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that passed in 1986. “We need to reclaim it. Current law suggests that you don't have a reasonable right to privacy on communication over 180 days old."
Brandon noted in a statement sent to SC Media that "private communication is private, regardless of whether a third party is used to convey information or how long it has been.”
The House's unanimous vote (419-0) to pass a version of the bill in April drew immediate praise from privacy rights groups and hope that the Senate would be just as quick to act.
But in June, a coalition that includes technology companies Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Foursquare sent an open letter to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a co-sponsor of the bill, voicing concerns about an amendment Cornyn introduced that allows law enforcement agencies to obtain email records without a warrant. The group said the amendment fundamentally changes the nature of the legislation.
The signatories “strongly oppose an expansion of the National Security Letter (NSL) statute,” the letter stated. “We would oppose any version of these bills that included such a proposal expanding the government's ability to access private data without a court order.”
Monday's vote by the House will send the bill to the Senate.