Email Privacy Act Gets Warm Reception

Washington players are still applauding the reintroduction this week of the Email Privacy Act, a bill that would require law enforcement to get a warrant before they can access ISP's digital records, such as emails, social media posts and texts.

"We thank Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) for their efforts to modernize our outdated laws governing access to our emails and digital communications," said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association. "This common-sense bill would ensure online communications are treated with the same privacy protections as physical mail and instill confidence that consumers' personal data is legally protected, no matter where it is stored."

The bill passed the House unanimously but was held over in the Senate due to issues there.

"The new Congress should make the Email Privacy Act a top legislative priority to safeguard the privacy and Fourth Amendment protections of Americans while still providing law enforcement with the tools it needs to enforce laws and protect public safety," said the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in a statement.

"This legislation provides an obvious and long-needed fix to protect Americans’ privacy and Fourth Amendment protections," ITIF said. "Rules on how the government can access electronic communications in criminal investigations have simply not kept up with advances in modern technology. Indeed, U.S. law still treats data stored in the cloud differently than data stored on a local computer. Americans expect that their information will receive the same constitutional protections regardless of how it is stored, and this legislation will help bridge that divide."

"Our electronics communications policy has not kept up with technology," said Morgan Reed, executive director of ACT/The App Association. "The current law was passed in 1986, before the internet revolution. Consumers now expect documents stored in online folders to have the same privacy rights as those stored in a filing cabinet.

"The overwhelming vote in the Judiciary Committee and House of Representatives in 2016 reflected broad support in Congress and throughout the country to modernize outdated data protection laws. It is time we finish the job and update the law."

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.