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Government Surveillance

Senators Lee and Leahy Introduce Bold Bill to Protect Privacy in the Digital Age

Today, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017, legislation that would modernize the privacy laws that protect the digital communications of all Americans. The bill, which would fundamentally reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), is more comprehensive than previous reform efforts. Specific new privacy protections in the bill include: a warrant requirement for law enforcement access to all digital communications such as email held by a third party, a warrant requirement for access to location information, new limits on metadata collection, and new freedoms to allow a company to notify its users when searches of their communications occur. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has been a leading advocate for major ECPA reform to protect privacy in the digital age and strongly supports this bipartisan legislation.

“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.”

ECPA, the law that would be updated as a result of the bill, was drafted more than 30 years ago, and did not anticipate the sweeping technological change that has occurred in that time. Laws that govern U.S. citizens’ privacy rights have not evolved as quickly, and the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017 represents progress in this direction.

A more detailed review of the ECPA Modernization Act is available on CDT’s blog, and statements of support for the bill from a diverse group of civil society organizations and businesses are available here.