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Government Surveillance

Coalition Letter Supporting Email Privacy Act in 115th Congress

January 30, 2017

Chairman Bob Goodlatte

Ranking Member John Conyers

House Judiciary Committee

United States House of Representatives


Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, companies and trade associations, write to express our support for the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387). 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.” It represents true bipartisan, commonsense reform on privacy and was endorsed unanimously by the House of Representatives in the 114th Congress.

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, which is identical to what was reported from committee last year, does not achieve all of the reforms for which we had hoped.  Indeed, it removes key provisions of the bill that was originally proposed in the 114th Congress, 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. 387 and urge the Committee to move the bill forward without any amendments that would weaken the protections afforded by the bill.




American Association of Law Libraries

American Civil Liberties Union

American Library Association

Americans for Tax Reform


ACT | The App Association

Association of Research Libraries

Brennan Center for Justice

BSA | The Software Alliance

Center for Democracy & Technology

Cisco Systems

Competitive Enterprise Institute


Computer & Communications Industry Association

Consumer Action

Consumer Technology Association

The Constitution Project

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Data Foundry

Data & Marketing Association

Demand Progress

Digital Liberty

Discovery Institute

Distributed Computing Industry Association



Electronic Frontier Foundation




Federation of Genealogical Societies


Future of Privacy Forum

Golden Frog




Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Information Technology Industry Council

Institute for Policy Innovation

Internet Association

The Jeffersonian Project


National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers


New America’s Open Technology Institute

News Media Alliance

Niskanen Center

R Street Institute

Reform Government Surveillance

Snap Inc.

Software & Information Industry Association


Taxpayers Protection Alliance




U.S. Chamber of Commerce




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

* For identification only.