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Government Surveillance

Privacy Wins in a Landslide as House Passes Email Privacy Act

In a vote of 419-0, the US House of Representatives passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699), which reforms the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require a warrant for government to access digital communications stored in “the cloud.” The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has been a leading advocate of ECPA reform and worked closely with a diverse coalition to advance this important legislation.

“With the rise of cloud computing, our emails, photos and texts are stored with third parties. In order for the law to keep up with technology and users’ reasonable expectation of privacy, that information must be protected by a search warrant. That’s the same constitutional standard that protects the information we store in our homes,” said Chris Calabrese, CDT Vice President of Policy.

“While not perfect, Chairman Goodlatte has advanced a bill that achieves the main goal of reform efforts – assuring the content of digital communication is protected by a warrant. It addresses core law enforcement concerns and protects our privacy. The Senate should build on this momentum and make the Email Privacy Act law,” Calabrese added.

The reforms in the Email Privacy Act ratify the Sixth Circuit’s decision in U.S. v. Warshak, which held that email content is protected by the Fourth Amendment, and reflects current practices by the Department of Justice and FBI. As the important reform efforts move to the Senate, CDT will continue to lead on the issue to help make ECPA reform a reality in this Congress.