UPDATE: On April 27, the House passed the Email Privacy Act on a vote of 419 to 0. “This resounding vote shows a broad, bipartisan consensus for this commonsense measure to protect Americans’ private communications,” said TCP President Virginia Sloan in a press release. “The Senate should quickly take up and pass this legislation without weakening it. It’s long past time to close the loophole that leaves our sensitive personal and proprietary online communications subject to warrantless snooping,” she added.
ORIGINAL POST: Nearly 70 technology companies, trade associations and privacy groups joined The Constitution Project in urging the House of Representatives to pass warrant-for-content legislation that would provide stronger protection to sensitive personal and proprietary online communications without further amendment.
The bill, the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) sponsored by Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Ks.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which currently allows law enforcement agencies to access without a warrant emails that have been stored for more than 180 days and information stored “in the cloud.” As a result, emails and online documents don’t receive the same Fourth Amendment protections as physical letters sent through the Post Office and stored in filing cabinets, which require a warrant to access.
In an April 26 letter to members of the House, the groups noted that the bill does not achieve all of the ECPA reforms they had hoped for. However, the groups wrote, “it does impose a warrant-for-content rule with limited exceptions. We are particularly pleased that the bill does not carve out civil agencies from the warrant requirement, which would have undermined the very purpose of the bill.” TCP Board member David Beier had earlier published an op-ed in The Hill arguing against a civil agency carve-out.
H.R. 699 has more than 300 co-sponsors in the House. The House Judiciary Committee passed it unanimously on April 13.