In an overwhelmingly positive voice vote, the House passed the Email Privacy Act (HR 387). The Email Privacy Act will finally bring the Electronic Communications Privacy Act – or ECPA – into the modern world. The i2Coalition has supported ECPA reform since our inception, and our efforts to secure passage of ECPA reform in the House were critical to its success. Many of you will recall that the Email Privacy Act cleared the House 419-0 in the last Congress in 2016. We worked hard to convince the Senate to move the bill forward, but ultimately did not prevail.
The next step for ECPA reform is again in the Senate. To date, we have had many members spending countless hours advocating in person and by mail on ECPA. We will need to lean on each of you to do the same in our effort to get this ECPA reform on the President’s desk.
It is hard to overstate the importance of ECPA reform to Internet Infrastructure Providers, but we’d like to take a moment to explain why it is particularly important to us.
While the deficiencies in ECPA in general are well documented, two issues are troublesome for our members in particular:
ECPA significantly increases costs for Internet infrastructure providers by creating a complex set of rules for access to data. These rules do not reflect the current use of technology. This makes developing compliance plans difficult and increases the possibility that sensitive information will be disclosed.
Warrantless access to data by U.S. law enforcement entities discourages the adoption of cloud technology.
As a result of our role in the middle of most Internet transactions, Internet infrastructure providers receive a significant number of requests from law enforcement for information about their customers. Most have compliance plans designed to ensure that they comply with the laws governing their businesses, their customer expectations, and their privacy policies. A law that requires us to distinguishes between email that has been on a server for more than 180 days, or is in the trash, is generally unworkable.
ECPA is also inconsistent with and threatens the enterprising nature of, the Internet and the cloud computing industry. According to Gartner, Cloud services are a $200+ billion industry. Without updated privacy laws to provide online customers with the same legal protections they could get off-line, we risk losing thousands of jobs — and our ability to compete in the global marketplace. ECPA reform sends a strong message to the marketplace that Congress cares and understands that law enforcement access to data is one of the most important marketplace issues that our members face.
As i2Coalition prepares for its advocacy on ECPA in the Senate, our members can look forward to more information about how they can help. If you aren’t a member, and would like information about getting involved, please reach out and let us know.