Yesterday we issued a statement of support for the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387), which was introduced by Representatives Kevin Yoder and Jared Polis. The Act makes much-needed updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), an outdated law that sets standards for government access to email and storage. The i2Coalition has advocated for ECPA reform since 2014.
For the past three Congresses, advocates from across the political spectrum have called for ECPA reform. In particular, the i2Coalition supports reform of a small, but outdated, provision of ECPA which allows warrantless access to data. The access is based on an antiquated understanding of technology standards that no longer apply to modern electronic communications. Warrantless access to data under ECPA is contrary to U.S. due process requirements, undermines confidence in the privacy of data, and has not been demonstrated to have an appreciable positive effect on law enforcement activities.
ECPA reform is of critical importance to Internet Infrastructure providers. While the deficiencies in ECPA are well documented, two are known to be especially troublesome for i2Coalition members and the industry at large:
- 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.
With a vote of 419-0 the House previously passed the Email Privacy Act (HR 699) in April of 2016. We previously wrote about the hurdles the Email Privacy Act would face in Senate and elsewhere in May of 2016.
By ending ECPA’s archaic ‘180-day rule,’ which permits email communications to be obtained without a warrant after 180 days, the Act will restore confidence on the Internet by providing clear rules for government access to our most sensitive communications. Trust in Internet providers will increase when Internet users can clearly understand how the government gains access to emails, texts, notes, photos, and other sensitive information stored in the cloud.
The Act is an opportunity to clarify that email content is protected by the Fourth Amendment and that a warrant is required to gain access to this content. Moreover, the Act simply codifies current DOJ and FBI policies, as well as resolves a split in Federal court interpretation of the Fourth Amendment as it applies to email.
Representatives Yoder and Polis deserve particular thanks for continuing to press this issue over many Congresses. We will work with both Representatives to ensure swift passage of the Act in both the House and Senate.
For additional information on the Act, please see our member Golden Frog’s statement of support.
UPDATE: We’ve Joined A Coalition Letter Supporting The Email Privacy Act
We’ve joined with 61 other organizations in supporting the Email Privacy Act:
- American Association of Law Libraries
- American Civil Liberties Union
- American Library Association
- Americans for Tax Reform
- Association of Research Libraries
- Brennan Center for Justice
- BSA | The Software Alliance
- Center for Democracy & Technology
- Cisco Systems
- Competitive Enterprise Institute
- Computer & Communications Industry Association
- Consumer Action
- Consumer Technology Association
- The Constitution Project
- Council for Citizens Against Government Waste
- Data Foundry
- Data & Marketing Association
- Demand Progress
- Digital Liberty
- Discovery Institute
- Distributed Computing Industry Association
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Federation of Genealogical Societies
- Future of Privacy Forum
- Golden Frog
- Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
- Information Technology Industry Council
- Institute for Policy Innovation
- Internet Association
- The Jeffersonian Project
- National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
- New America’s Open Technology Institute
- News Media Alliance
- Niskanen Center
- R Street Institute
- Reform Government Surveillance
- Snap Inc.
- Software & Information Industry Association
- Taxpayers Protection Alliance
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce
You can find more info on the coalition letter below on the CDT website.
January 30, 2017 Chairman Bob Goodlatte Ranking Member John Conyers House Judiciary Committee United States House of Representatives Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers, We, the undersigned civil society organizations, companies and trade associations, write to express our support for the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387).