E-Mail Privacy Act Has Votes To Pass House

According to legislators and others, a bill protecting e-mail privacy has enough votes to pass in the House if it is brought up for a vote.

The Email Privacy Act has 218 cosponsors, according to the Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Microsoft, Google and eBay, as well as Dish, Aereo, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) are lead sponsors on the bill, which would change the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require a warrant before ISPs would have to disclose the contents of e-mail communications.

“This bill would finally offer e-mail, social messaging and other cloud-stored data the same protection as files stored inside someone’s home," said CCIA president Ed Black. "If the government agency wants to obtain cloud-stored data, it would need to go before a judge and get a warrant for that search."

“Those who care about the Constitution and checks and balances are no doubt pleased to see Congress working together to make sure the law is finally keeping up with technology. The last Electronic Communications Privacy Act is now almost 30 years-old so this update is long overdue. We applaud this milestone in the House, and ask Congress to bring this to a vote this year.”

"With 218 representatives backing H.R. 1852, the bipartisan 'Email Privacy Act,' the House of Representatives should seize the opportunity to pass legislation that takes a meaningful step in addressing concerns that Americans have about law enforcement access to their data," said the Information Technology Industry Council in a blog.

"Updating ECPA with the Email Privacy Act—which establishes a warrant-for-content requirement without carve outs for civil agencies—would bring the law in line with current standard practice based on legal precedence."

“ECPA was passed before the web was even invented, in contrast to today where most Americans have multiple email addresses, social media accounts and utilize cloud storage on a daily basis," said Chris Calabrese of the ACLU and a member of the Digital 4th coalition for ECPA reform. "Though our technology has advanced over recent decades, the law governing over online privacy has failed to evolve over time. However, with over 218 co-sponsors now signed on in support of the Email Privacy Act, Americans’ electronic communications can be protected from unwarranted government intrusion."

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.