The privacy of our everyday communications, whether it be a text to a family member, an email to a coworker, or a simple Facebook post for your friends to see, are all in serious jeopardy due to a law created nearly three decades ago, when electronic communication was just on the horizon. The law in question is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Written in 1986, the law predates most forms of electronic communication used today. The law was created at a time where a computer was more of a luxury than a necessity in everyday life. Few Americans owned them, and even less used email. Under the ECPA, government agencies may seize online communications stored longer than 180 days without a warrant. This may have been acceptable at the time, but in today’s modern era where huge amounts of sensitive and personal information rest online, the ECPA as is serves as a tool to invade privacy rather than protect it.
At a time where it is difficult to get anything done in Washington, there remains a political consensus; the ECPA is in desperate need of reform, and both sides of the political spectrum are pushing legislation to do just that. Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) have introduced the Email Privacy Act to restore the law’s purpose, protecting the privacy of our online communications. The Email Privacy Act is the most popular in the House with 304 co-sponsors. That’s nearly 70%, both Republicans and Democrats. American citizens also show resounding support for ECPA reform. A survey released this week by Vox Populi Polling, reported 86% of American voters support updating ECPA.
Today the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to examine the Email Privacy Act, taking consideration of testimony from numerous entities affected by this law. Americans for Tax Reform President, Grover Norquist has provided his own testimony to the committee as well, stating:
“The Email Privacy Act will bring the law into line with the advances of technology by reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ATR supports this legislation, and urges the committee to expedite a mark-up following the hearing, so the bill can receive a floor vote. We would like to add our voice of support to that of more than 300 Congressmen already co-sponsoring this legislation. Technology changes. The Fourth Amendment does not.”
His full comments can be found here.