House Dem: Update privacy law to save March Madness

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is telling his fellow members of Congress that their "March Madness" brackets hang in the balance over a federal email privacy law update.

In the playful letter on Thursday, Polis warned colleagues that Attorney General Eric Holder may be snooping on their basketball picks.

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"Ever think Eric Holder’s March Madness bracket looked a lot like yours?" he wrote. "Stop the madness, cosponsor the Email Privacy Act!"

The Email Privacy Act, introduced by Polis along with Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Tom Graves (R-Ga.) last year, would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which critics say is out of date for the modern world.

The current law allows law enforcement agents to search emails without a warrant as long as they have been stored electronically for more than 180 days.

Polis's bill would change that and require police to get a warrant before searching emails.

"It defies common sense that emails should be less protected than postal mail," Polis wrote in his letter. "Please cosponsor the Email Privacy Act (HR 1852) to require the government to get a warrant based on probable cause to access emails regardless of their age or status."

The bill has more than 180 co-sponsors in the House and has been steadily gaining steam over recent months. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced a companion measure in the upper chamber, which has the backing of major tech firms like Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Supporters of the bill worry that revelations about the spying practices at the National Security Agency (NSA) and elsewhere distracted attention from an email privacy bill last year.

As the debate about the NSA cools down, however, they hope that focus will return to the Email Privacy Act.

Thursday's email was the second first tongue-in-cheek message Polis has sent in recent days.

Last week, he mocked Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) call to ban the virtual currency bitcoin with a letter to top financial regulators urging them to ban cash. The letter noted that dollar bills are easily lost, stolen and "are present in nearly all major drug busts in the United States and many abroad."