On Monday, January 9th, 2017 Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)  and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) reintroduced the Email Privacy Act. This bipartisan bill will plug a loophole that allows civil and criminal investigative agencies the ability to bypass Fourth Amendment protections of our online content. 

The Email Privacy Act would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986 to underline that all a warrant is required in order to search Americans’ online communications, regardless of when the email was crafted.  ECPA contains an unintended loophole that allows the government to search any email older than 180 days stored on a third-party server, such as Google Mail, Yahoo Mail or Apple’s iCloud, without a warrant.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform strongly argued in favor of the Email Privacy Act legislation. “American privacy was the big winner when the House passed the Email Privacy Act! They send the bill to the Senate after a 419 -0 vote.  If the Senate concurs the government will need a warrant to read your e-mails—just as they have always needed a warrant to read your snail mail.”

Katie McAuliffe, ATR’s Federal Affairs Manager and Executive Director of Digital Liberty said,

“Passage of the Email Privacy Act was a large bipartisan effort and a major victory in securing American’s digital privacy. Updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is absolutely necessary in order to secure the privacy of emails and other items stored in the Cloud.” 

In the 114th Congress (2015-2016) the House voted 419-0 to pass the legislation, but the bill stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee after amendments were offered that privacy advocates said would give the civil and criminal investigative agencies even more “unwarranted” surveillance power than the status quo.

Both House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) are original cosponsors of the bill. Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA), Will Hurd, (R-TX), Ted Poe (R-TX), Susan DelBene (D-WA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Judy Chu (D-CA) have also joined as original cosponsors of the bill.