E-Mail Privacy Act Has Supermajority Sponsorship

The E-Mail Privacy Act has collected 291 co-sponsors, according to the Digital 4th Coalition, which is enough (two-thirds of the House) to fast track the bill under suspension of House rules, which means the House could theoretically approve it without debate or other normal procedural requirements.

The legislation, which updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (of 1986), would require law enforcement and government agencies to get a warrant to access e-mails and other private online communications. Or put another way, ISPs could not divulge such information without a court order.

"When ECPA was written, the internet as we understand it did not exist," said bill author Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.). "Only 340,000 Americans even subscribed to cell phone service. Mark Zuckerberg was only two years old. But as our society and technology has evolved, our digital privacy laws remain stuck in 1986. With our bill now receiving the support of a veto-proof majority of the House of Representatives, the time has arrived to fix that."

The House needs to vote on this bill immediately," said Gabe Rottman of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is a member of the coalition. "It is the most co-sponsored bill in this Congress and yet hasn’t been considered by the House or at the committee level. Passage of the Email Privacy Act is long overdue."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.