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Government Surveillance

Coalition Letter in Support of Email Privacy Act (April 26)

April 26, 2016

Dear Representative,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, companies and trade associations, write to express our support for the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699). The Act updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the law that sets standards for government access to private internet communications, to reflect internet users’ reasonable expectations of privacy with respect to emails, texts, notes, photos, and other sensitive information stored in “the cloud.”

The bill would end ECPA’s arbitrary “180-day rule,” which permits email communications to be obtained without a warrant after 180 days. The Act would also reject the Department of Justice interpretation of ECPA that the act of opening an email removes it from warrant protection. These reforms would ratify the Sixth Circuit’s decision in U.S. v. Warshak, which held that email content is protected by the Fourth Amendment and that law enforcement access requires a probable cause warrant. Moreover, the changes reflect current practices: DOJ and FBI policies already require law enforcement officials seeking content to obtain a search warrant, and many service providers will not relinquish their users’ content without one.

The bill reported from committee does not achieve all of the reforms we had hoped for.  Indeed, it removes key provisions of the proposed bill, such as the section requiring notice from the government to the customer when a warrant is served, which are necessary to protect users.  However, it does impose a warrant-for-content rule with limited exceptions. We are particularly pleased that the bill does not carve out civil agencies from the warrant requirement, which would have expanded government surveillance power and undermined the very purpose of the bill.

For these reasons, we support H.R.699 and urge its immediate passage without any amendments that would weaken the protections afforded by the bill.



ACT | The App Association


American Civil Liberties Union

American Library Association

American Association of Law Libraries

Americans for Tax Reform

Application Developers Alliance

Association of Research Libraries

Automattic Inc.

Brennan Center for Justice

BSA | The Software Alliance

Center for Democracy & Technology

Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights

Cisco Systems

Competitive Enterprise Institute


Computer & Communications Industry Association

The Constitution Project

Consumer Action

Consumer Technology Association

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Data Foundry, Inc.

Deluxe Corp

Digital Liberty

Direct Marketing Association

Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA)


Electronic Frontier Foundation






Federation of Genealogical Societies

Future of Privacy Forum

Golden Frog, GmbH



Hewlett Packard Enterprise

HP Inc.

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Information Technology Industry Council


Institute for Policy Innovation

Internet Association

Internet Infrastructure Coalition – I2Coalition

The Jeffersonian Project

Less Government



National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers


New America’s Open Technology Institute

Newspaper Association of America

Niskanen Center

R Street Institute

Reform Government Surveillance


Software & Information Industry Association



Taxpayers Protection Alliance




U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Venture Politics



Michael W. Carroll, American University Washington College of Law*

James X. Dempsey, University of California, Berkeley*

Paul Rosenzweig, Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation*

* For identification only.