Nadler, Conyers tout email privacy reform

Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) want to change the law that deprives emails of the Fourth Amendment protections afforded to paper documents.

“As technology has advanced exponentially, our government has fallen short of upholding and extending [constitutional] privacy protections to the digital space,” the pair wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed published Friday.

In the piece, Conyers and Nadler, the ranking members of the House Judiciary Committee and Judiciary subcommittee on the Internet, respectively, repeated their calls for reform to the Electronic Privacy Communications Act (ECPA).

That 1986 law allows law enforcement officials to access, without a warrant, emails that have been stored for more than 6 months.

“The Fourth Amendment protects documents stored in a desk drawer and file cabinet, but did you know those same documents stored in the ‘cloud’ are vulnerable to warrantless search and seizure?” the lawmakers asked.

Conyers and Nadler pointed to the Email Privacy Act, a bill from Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) that would require law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant before accessing stored emails.

That bill has 216 co-sponsors — two sponsors away from the 218 it needs to have support from a majority of House members — but is opposed by some federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, which says it needs warrantless access to electronic communications for its investigations.

“The American people deserve to have their privacy rights updated for the digital age,” the pair wrote, calling the Email Privacy Act “practical reform every American can stand behind.”

“The time for ECPA reform is now,” they said.