Of all the outdated privacy laws, one of the most in need of an update is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Passed 30 years ago, the law defies the Constitution and commonsense — it says the government can access emails without a warrant just because they’re over 180 days old. What?!
Congress has the the chance to fix this right now. A bill known as the Email Privacy Act, which would reform ECPA, just passed the House with a unanimous vote of 419-0! A vote like that is a rarity in Washington, and it shows just how necessary this legislation—which would require the government get a warrant for email just like it needs a warrant to access postal mail—truly is.
Chairman Grassley has committed to bringing ECPA reform legislation to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it must pass before going to the Senate for a full vote then be signed into law by President Obama.
However, certain government agencies are making last-ditch, desperate pitches to secure a carveout that would afford them special, warrantless access to your private documents stored with online companies. At the same time, some in law enforcement are calling for new authority to side-step the warrant requirement whenever they declare an emergency. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee need to hear from the public on the following points:
First, Members of the Committee must move swiftly to pass ECPA reform legislation with no weakening amendments — this legislation already passed the House with an overwhelming 419-0 vote, and the time to enact it into law is now.
Second, Members should reject all special carveouts that would give the SEC, IRS or law enforcement new warrantless access to private communications.
Please sign the petition to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to move quickly on a vote and to pass ECPA reform without any weakening amendments. Few bills ever secure this level of popularity and bipartisan support — this is a golden opportunity for Chairman Grassley and the Senate Judiciary Committee to demonstrate that Congress can stand for the public interest and civil liberties by passing this much-needed legislation.
(Nearly 100,000 people have already taken action, calling on the House to pass reform legislation.)