ECPA Reform

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was adopted in 1986. Since then, technology has advanced dramatically, and the statute has not kept pace. Under ECPA, government agencies claim they do not need a warrant to search private information, such as stored email, documents in the cloud, or even the location information generated by mobile devices. The time has come for ECPA to be reformed to ensure government agents must get a warrant before reading citizens’ private communications or tracking their movements.

Last year, the US House of Representatives passed ECPA reform legislation, the Email Privacy Act, by a vote of 419-0. CDT, along with a broad coalition strongly supported this legislation. With the bill stalling in the Senate, it has been reintroduced for the current Congress. We will continue to advocate for its passage. We will oppose any carve-outs for civil agencies, as well as any changes to the “emergency exception” rule or unwarranted law enforcement challenges.

Reforming ECPA has been endorsed by numerous major editorial boards, including the Dallas Morning News, Denver Post, Deseret News, Houston Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, New Jersey Star-Ledger, New York Times, and Washington Post.

Read a more detailed primer on ECPA here and visit the Digital Due Process coalition website.