Heritage Action joins push for expanded email protections

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Privacy advocates have argued that ECPA is outdated due to the increased storage space on email programs and other advances in Web technology. The "Digital 4th" coalition contends that people's email communications and other information stored and sent via the Web should have the same Fourth Amendment protections as information stored in a file cabinet or spoken over the phone.

The coalition says it's also fighting to ensure the government obtains a warrant before tracking the location of a person's cellphone over time. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled this August that police don't need a warrant to track people's cellphone locations, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Chairmen of the Judiciary committees in both chambers have said that reforming the electronic privacy law is a top priority for their panels this year. Just last week, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill that would reform the 1986 law.

“Privacy laws written in an analog era are no longer suited for privacy threats we face in a digital world," Leahy, one of the original authors of ECPA, said in a statement. "Three decades later, we must update this law to reflect new privacy concerns and new technological realities, so that our federal privacy laws keep pace with American innovation and the changing mission of our law enforcement agencies."

Brendan Sasso contributed to this report.

Updated at 12:30 p.m.