Broad Support for the ECPA Modernization Act

Written by Chris Calabrese

Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) have introduced a sweeping, bipartisan measure to modernize our electronic communication privacy laws, the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017. There is broad support for this bill and following is a collection of statements that demonstrate that support. 

Center for Democracy & Technology, Chris Calabrese, Vice President of Policy

“This is the privacy bill all Americans need and deserve to protect their everyday digital communications. Senators Lee and Leahy have introduced a comprehensive piece of legislation that is workable for law enforcement, but most importantly, ensures that citizens can fully realize their Fourth Amendment rights in our digitally-powered world,” said Chris Calabrese,  CDT Vice President of Policy. “In a time when common ground can be hard to find, members of Congress should support this bipartisan approach, and their constituents should tell them they want to enjoy the benefits of smartphones and the internet without government snooping.”

ACLU, Neema Singh Guliani, Legislative Counsel

“We applaud Senators Leahy and Lee for introducing this bill in an effort to ensure that Americans’ privacy is protected in the digital age. Technology has advanced rapidly since 1986, but our laws have not. ECPA was passed before the invention of many communications devices commonly used today, including the internet and smartphones. Yet, Congress has yet to follow the examples of many states to update our privacy laws.  

“The proposed bill would make clear that the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to get a warrant in order to access emails, location data, and other sensitive information. It would also ensure that the government complies with its obligation to notify individuals when their location and content information is requested. We urge the Congress to pass this important bill.”

American Library Association, James G. Neal, President

“No freedoms are more vital, and important to librarians, than those of inquiry and speech. Without real privacy, Americans effectively have neither. Current law that allows our government to get and view the full content of our most private electronic communications without a search warrant isn’t just outdated, it’s dangerous in a democracy. ALA strongly supports the bipartisan Leahy/Lee “ECPA Modernization Act” to finally and fully bring the Electronic Communications Privacy Act – and with it our fundamental rights to privacy, inquiry and speech – into the modern era.”

Association of Research Libraries – Krista L. Cox, Association of Research Libraries

“The ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 is a sensible and thoroughly necessary piece of legislation to restore Fourth Amendment privacy protections in the digital age.  ECPA is an outdated law, written more than 30 years ago in an age where digital communications looked vastly different from the modern world.  ARL applauds the leadership of Senators Lee and Leahy in championing much needed reform and urges Congress to finally pass ECPA reform.”

Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Michael Price, Senior Counsel

“The Brennan Center for Justice commends Senators Lee and Leahy on the introduction of this bipartisan bill, which will add crucial protections to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ECPA, written in 1986, does not afford the same privacy protections to data stored with third parties in the ‘cloud’ as it does to data stored locally in homes or offices. The ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 will fix this disconnect and ensure that a warrant is required for content and geolocation information stored online, consistent with the Fourth Amendment.”

BSA | The Software Alliance – Aaron Cooper, Vice President, Global Policy

BSA | The Software Alliance welcomes the introduction of the ECPA Modernization Act in the Senate today by Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). This legislation would modernize the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) by requiring a warrant for law enforcement to access content stored in the cloud. It also reforms the “gag order” authority, which prevents service providers from notifying customers when they receive a warrant for content. BSA has urged Congress to update ECPA for several years and is encouraged by the Senate’s bipartisan legislation, as well as the House’s passage of the Email Privacy Act earlier this year. We look forward to working with Congress to pass ECPA reform legislation – a positive step toward improving consumer privacy and an important part of a global effort to address law enforcement access to data around the world consistent with privacy expectations.”

CompTIA, Elizabeth Hyman, Executive Vice President, Public Advocacy

“CompTIA would like to thank Senators Lee and Leahy both for introducing the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 and for their tireless efforts to reform ECPA over the last several years. Reforming ECPA to require a warrant for content is crucial to protecting Americans’ privacy, and we hope that the Senate will move quickly to pass the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017, particularly given the overwhelming support ECPA reform has received in the House.”

Computer & Communications Industry Association, Ed Black, President & CEO

“Internet-era privacy reforms are long overdue and we commend Senators Lee and Leahy for their bill to clearly extend Fourth Amendment protections to emails and geolocation information stored in the cloud. As most individuals’ communications are now stored online, law enforcement should obtain a warrant before demanding access. This principle is equally true for the intimate information contained in users’ digitally stored location data. The Lee-Leahy bill will ensure that the Constitution’s protections for individual privacy are reflected in how information is stored and accessed in the 21st Century.”

The Constitution Project, Jake Laperruque, Senior Counsel

“It’s time for the Senate to join the 21st Century and acknowledge that emails deserve protection from warrantless snooping.  The ECPA Modernization Act would finally give our emails the protection from snooping they deserve.”

Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Michael Petricone, Senior Vice President, Government and Legal Affairs

“We thank Sens. Leahy and Lee for fighting to protect citizens’ privacy by bringing electronic communications privacy laws up to speed with modern technology. Americans should know their personal data is protected, no matter where it is stored.

“Under the current ECPA law, data stored on local sources such as your computer or smartphone is better protected from government searches than data stored on the cloud. In 1986 – the last time an electronic communications privacy bill was passed – less than one percent of U.S. households had a wireless phone. Today, over 90 percent of our households have smartphones. Further, if data is stored for longer than 180 days, the current ECPA law does not require the government to obtain a warrant to access it. However, with the proliferation of cloud services, many of our emails get stored for much longer. The ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 will eliminate the different requirements for cloud data, replacing them with a single standard – that the government must always get a warrant, protecting cloud providers and consumers alike.

“We applaud the House and Senate for moving forward on ECPA reform and look forward to working with both chambers as these companion bills move forward.”

Demand Progress, Mark Stanley, Director of Operations and Communications

“Americans increasingly live online, and without clear Fourth Amendment protections in the digital space, we have been denied a fundamental freedom. The ECPA Modernization Act would begin to remedy this injustice, by guaranteeing warrant protections for some of our most personal communications and data. Over the years, hundred of thousands of Americans have spoken out, calling for an update to the decades-old law, ECPA — by introducing this reform bill, Senators Lee and Leahy have heeded that call.”

Engine, Evan Engstrom, Executive Director

“Engine applauds Senators Lee and Leahy for their continued work on updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 is crucial for American startups, particularly those that hope to compete globally. Without rules requiring the U.S. Government to obtain a warrant for all digital content, startups are at a disadvantage in foreign countries. Additionally, as ECPA currently stands, government agencies are free to interpret warrant requirements as they see fit, creating uncertainty in data requirements and harming investment in startups. The Lee-Leahy legislation is a bi-partisan effort to protect American’s digital content and is good for startups who currently face uncertainty with compliance.”

FreedomWorks, Adam Brandon, President

“In the digital world, Americans deserve the same privacy protections that we have for our papers and personal information in the physical world. Senator Lee’s efforts to reform ECPA’s outdated standards will restore the protections that our founder’s enshrined in the Constitution. I’m glad to see Sens. Lee and Leahy’s continued leadership on this important issue.”

Google, Inc. –  Richard Salgado, Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security

“For many years, we have supported Senators Lee and Leahy in their efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) for the 21st century.  By raising the standards for government access to user data, the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 would guarantee us all the rights we should expect in the privacy of our communications while ensuring that the government has the legal tools needed to protect public safety.”

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), Daniel Castro, Vice President,

“It has been 31 years and counting since Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was enacted. There is no need to once again recap all the ways information technology and electronic communications have changed since 1986; it should be self-evident by now that the law needs to be reformed. Americans expect their data to receive Fourth Amendment protections regardless of the means with which they store it, and this legislation will help bridge that divide.

The Act would eliminate several arbitrary inconsistencies in ECPA that treat Americans’ data differently based on what it is and how it is stored. Importantly, the revisions would codify protections over emails, even if they have been opened or stored on a server for more than 180 days, ensuring they are still subject to Fourth Amendment protections. The bill also would add needed protections for geolocation information.

ITIF commends Senators Leahy and Lee for advancing their bill. The Senate should move quickly to take up this legislation and safeguard the privacy of Americans without compromising law enforcement’s ability to prosecute and solve crimes.”

Information Technology Industry Council, Andy Halataei, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs

“ECPA was enacted long before many of us knew what email was, let alone used it, and over 30 years later it is woefully out of step with our everyday world of communicating through connected devices and cloud computing. Electronic communications contain the most sensitive details about our lives, but unlike a filing cabinet or desk drawer in our homes, the government can access emails and other online content without a warrant after 180 days. Like ECPA reforms unanimously passed by the House earlier this year, Sens. Lee and Leahy’s bill reflects how we use cloud services to communicate by granting our electronic communications the same Constitutional protections enjoyed by the papers and effects we keep in our homes.”

Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition), David Snead, Co-Founder, Board and Policy Chair

“The i2Coalition thanks Senators Leahy and Lee for their bipartisan work on this crucial issue.  Internet infrastructure providers in the U.S. are at the center of a vital and growing segment of the U.S. economy. Customers of Internet infrastructure providers have consistently cited warrantless access to data as a critical concern. The ECPA Modernization Act sends a clear signal that the U.S. remains serious about protecting privacy in the Internet era, and passage will strengthen our economy.”

Microsoft 

“Today marks an important step toward protecting the rights of Americans while ensuring law enforcement has the ability to fight crime in the digital age. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced new legislation Thursday to update the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (ECPA) and require that a warrant be obtained by law enforcement before it can access the content of electronic communication. The new bill, the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017, has garnered broad support from across the business community, advocacy groups and government. In fact, this is exactly what federal judges have been calling for to resolve the legal questions tying up our courts.

ECPA became law in 1986, at a time when fewer than 10 percent of U.S. households had a computer at home, the internet was a mystery to most and cell phones were used by fewer than 1 percent of Americans. Today, we live in a digital world powered by the cloud and awash in data. Yet ECPA fails to address the global and pervasive nature of data use and storage. This out-of-date law must be updated to not only protect privacy rights, but to help law enforcement keep people safe.” Read more here.

National Taxpayers Union (NTU), Nan Swift, Federal Affairs Manager

“NTU applauds Senators Lee and Leahy for their leadership on this critical issue. Updating ECPA is a commonsense extension of our Fourth Amendment protections of ‘papers and effects’ to those stored electronically across a variety of platforms and devices. These protections are vital, not only for Americans subject to investigation on the part of law enforcement, but also to prevent overreach from civil agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As an organization that has sought sensible safeguards against overzealous tax examination tactics for decades, NTU recognizes the need to establish prudent boundaries on how and where government can utilize our personal communication data.

This legislation serves as a critical check on big government and for the sake of taxpayers, the limits on federal agencies’ access to our information must be clarified now.”

New America’s Open Technology Institute, Robyn Greene, Policy Counsel and Government Affairs Lead

“The ECPA Modernization Act builds upon the important reforms of the Email Privacy Act. We live in a world where we carry surveillance and tracking devices with us wherever we go and we save sensitive online communications indefinitely, yet the law doesn’t reflect this dramatic shift. This bill will bring ECPA’s protections in line with the realities of how we use and interact with technology and communications devices. It will help to ensure that Americans’ rights are protected, and are not subject to arbitrary rules that applied to the infancy of the information age that’s long since passed. Congress should not delay in passing ECPA reform; it’s already two decades overdue.”

NetChoice, Carl Szabo, Senior Policy Counsel

“NetChoice welcomes the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017’s common-sense privacy protections for our electronic communications.  Today, our privacy in electronic communication is protected by a 30-year-old law that is decades out of date.  The Act brings the 30-year-old ECPA law into the 21st Century.”

Niskanen Center, Ryan Hagemann, Director of Technology Policy

By ensuring the same Fourth Amendment protections that apply to our physical papers and effects are covered in the digital realm, this bill will ensure constitutional safeguards continue to keep pace with the rapidly evolving pace of technological progress. The Niskanen Center applauds the efforts of Sens. Lee and Leahy in supporting the online rights of all Americans.”

Oath, Alyssa Betz, Senior Director of Public Policy

“Oath appreciates the continued work of Senators Lee and Leahy to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. At Oath, we’re committed to protecting our users’ privacy, and the proposed legislation is consistent with our company values.”

Reform Government Surveillance

“Reform Government Surveillance applauds Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for the introduction of their ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 today. This bill offers true bipartisan, common sense reforms on privacy. These long-overdue updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) reflect the current reasonable expectations of privacy with respect to emails, texts, notes, photos, and other sensitive information stored electronically. We thank the Senators for their work and look forward to working with them and Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), whose bill already passed the House with bipartisan support, to make these much-needed reforms law.”

R Street Institute, Mike Godwin, Senior Fellow

R Street Institute has consistently argued that the Fourth Amendment’s broad guarantees of privacy and of limits on government intrusion must be reinforced to protect us in the digital age. That’s why we are pleased today to see the introduction of the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Congress is now poised to update the three-decade-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act—which spells out when government needs to get a warrant for our data–in ways that reflect how

pervasively we use digital communications and tools in our everyday lives. This Act will fix some serious flaws in the older law. And it’s not just concerned with the content of digital communications; it also limits when and how government can access data from the geolocation features that internet services increasingly offer us.

Software & Information Industry Association, Mark MacCarthy, Senior Vice President for Public Policy

 

“The ECPA Modernization Act provides badly-needed, common-sense reform to the antiquated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). This legislation will increase consumer trust in hosted IT providers by ensuring that personal data stored remotely enjoys the same legal protection as data stored on the personal computers of consumers.  The House acted earlier this year to pass companion legislation, the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387). SIIA commends Senators Lee and Leahy for their leadership on this critical issue, and we urge the Senate to expeditiously pass this bill to level the playing field for government access to data stored in the cloud.”

TechFreedom, Austin Carson, Executive Director

“TechFreedom enthusiastically supports Senators Leahy and Lee’s bipartisan effort to reform one of the Internet’s most outdated laws. The ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 will protect Americans’ electronic communications and geolocation information from being accessed by law enforcement without a warrant. The Lee-Leahy bill also shows US tech companies a clear procedure to operate under and guarantees to foreign countries a commitment to privacy protections.

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