Senators resurrect bill to require a warrant for email searches

Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are renewing their push to add increased protection to people’s emails. 

The bipartisan duo urged all of their colleagues to support an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which currently allows law enforcement to access email older than 180 days without a warrant, as well as other data stored in the cloud. 

{mosads}The two senators plan to reintroduce legislation in the “coming weeks” to update the law first enacted in 1986. 

“The government is already prohibited from tapping our phones or forcibly entering our homes to obtain private information without warrants,” they wrote in an op-ed in Real Clear Politics. “The same privacy protections should apply to our online communications.”

When the law was enacted nearly 30 years ago, the senators said, no one could have predicted how the Internet and mobile technology would change the way people communicate. 

“The proposal we will soon introduce requires the government to obtain a search warrant, based on probable cause, before searching through the content of Americans’ e-mail or other electronic communications stored with a service provider such as Google, Facebook, or Yahoo,” they wrote. 

Similar legislation gained 273 co-sponsors in the House last Congress but failed to get a floor vote. The Judiciary Committee approved Leahy’s bill last Congress, but it too failed to receive a vote in the full chamber. 

The proposal has broad support from the technology companies, the civil liberties community and others. Last week, a broad coalition sent a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees calling for passage. 

Lawmakers in the House are also expected to reintroduce their legislation in the next few weeks.

Tags Electronic Communications Privacy Act Email Mike Lee Patrick Leahy update
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