Representative Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas), reintroduced the Email Privacy Act to the House on Monday. The legislation would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, which currently allows for law enforcement to access old electronic communication, including emails, texts and phone calls without a warrant.
The Email Privacy Act would require law enforcement to get a warrant to search emails and communication that have been stored on a cloud service or other device. The legislation aims to fix the loophole that allows the government to look at old communication from a third party service, such as Google, without a warrant.
The House originally voted to pass the legislation 419-0, but it was halted in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) proposed an amendment that allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation excessive surveillance power, according to privacy advocates. The amendment stalled the legislation from passing in the committee.
The Email Privacy Act will have to go through the Senate Judiciary Committee once again, before a vote in the House occurs. Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte is a co-sponsor to the legislation as well as Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who is the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. But Cornyn’s position on the amendment will have to change, in order to move the legislation forward to the House.
Rep. Yoder made the following statement in regards to reintroducing this legislation,
“After the unanimous passage of our bill last year, I see no reason why we can’t get this done right away. Let’s give the Senate ample time to act, because more than 30 years has been long enough for Congress to wait on this. It’s simple, in 2017 if the federal government wants to access Americans’ digital content, it must get a warrant.”
The Email Privacy Act would ensure that Americans have a level of privacy in regards to their email communications and other digitally stored content. The law would require the government to get a warrant to search electronic communication thus having to show probable cause. It would preserve the legal tools necessary to conduct criminal investigations, and it does not change the requirements to get a warrant or interfere with the process.
(h/t Congressman Kevin Yoder)