On April 13, 2016, ARL joined a coalition of more than 50 civil society organizations, trade associations and companies in writing to support the Manager’s Substitute Amendment to the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699), a bill to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), in advance of the bill’s markup. ECPA, a law passed in 1986, has not kept pace with evolving technology and allows government agencies to access private communications stored in the “cloud” without a warrant. ARL has long supported reform of this outdated law to ensure that Fourth Amendment protections extend to the digital world.
The Email Privacy Act has enjoyed broad support with 314 co-sponsors. While the coalition letter supports the Manager’s Substitute, it notes:
The Manager’s Substitute does not achieve all of the reforms we had hoped for. Indeed, it removes key provisions of the proposed bill, such as the section requiring notice from the government to the customer when a warrant is served, which are necessary to protect users. However, it does impose a warrant-for-content rule with limited exceptions. We are particularly pleased that the Manager’s Substitute does not carve out civil agencies from the warrant requirement, which would have expanded government surveillance power and undermined the very purpose of the bill.
Markup of the bill will happen in the House Judiciary Committee today, April 13, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.
The time for ECPA reform is long overdue and while the Manager’s Substitute rolls back some of the positive aspects of the original bill, it still represents a step forward in protecting privacy in the digital age.