Do you want the government putting its nose into your email without a warrant? If not, you want the Email Privacy Act to become the law of the land.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has reintroduced the Email Privacy Act. This law would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ECPA is the main statute governing law enforcement access to email. If passed, government agents would have to get a warrant to look at your emails. Current law allows law enforcement and government agencies to obtain your messages from email service providers without a warrant if they are older than 180 days.
In its first go-around, the bill passed in a 419-0 vote in a Congress that could seldom agree on what day of the week it was. Before that the Email Privacy Act had become very popular in the House, with 315 out of 435 possible sponsors by the time it left the House Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, Democrat from Washington state and former Microsoft VP, said, "After spending two decades in the technology sector where things evolve at light speed, it is hard to believe that we're starting another year with laws that were written for how computing worked in the 1980s. Meanwhile, cloud-based services become more ubiquitous with every passing day, highlighting the absurdity that current law provides greater protections for a letter in a filing cabinet than an email on a server."
This is not a Democrat bill. It was first introduced by Kevin Yoder, a Republican representative from Kansas.
This legislation provides an obvious and long-needed fix to protect Americans' privacy and Fourth Amendment protections. Rules on how the government can access electronic communications in criminal investigations have simply not kept up with advances in modern technology. Indeed, US 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.
So why isn't it law yet? The House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, didn't push the the bill forward in 2016. Goodlatte claimed, however, that he "supports" the core of the bill.
Federal agencies, which have heavily relied on keeping the old and outdated ECPA law, have also pushed for there to be no changes to the law.
Therefore, she asked that the government grant the SEC the power to compel email providers without a warrant. By extension, this would also give such agencies as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the right to demand your emails from your provider, say Google Gmail or Microsoft Outlook.com, without a warrant.