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Email Privacy Act Passes House (it's about time!!), Senate Hesitates

Email Privacy Act Passes House (it's about time!!), Senate Hesitates

Although the Email Privacy Act received a unanimous approval from the US House of Representatives, the bill is already getting some push back from the Senate.

This act would prohibit law enforcement from obtaining citizens’ private emails without a warrant. Currently, officers are allowed to get this information with only a subpoena. This is much easier to obtain because it requires less judicial oversight. With law enforcement being mandated to acquire a warrant this would help give citizens’ more protection.

Even though there was a 419-0 vote in favor of the act by the House, Sen. Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicated that the Senate may not support the bill.

“Members of this committee on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about the details of this reform, and whether it’s balanced to reflect issues raised by law enforcement,” said Grassley.

Evidently, Grassley and some members of the Senate are apprehensive about creating these legal hurdles for law enforcement. Those in opposition believe the bill lacks clarity.  

“For example, if a warrant’s required to obtain email, should the constitutionally-recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement — such as the email owner’s consent — be fully available for law enforcement as well?” said Grassley. “I plan on taking a close look at the bill that passed the House, and talking with interested stakeholders and members of this committee to try to find a path forward for ECPA reform here in the Senate.”

However, many feel strongly about addressing this issue. The previous Electronic Communications Privacy Act from 1986, doesn’t take into account today’s digital developments, such as the web-based email systems that allow communications to be stored in the virtual cloud versus solely on computers.

There is a similar legislation already in the works by the Senate which has 26 co-sponsors.

“Now that the House has passed this bill by a vote of 419-0, it is time for the Senate to act. We urge the Senate to take up and pass this bipartisan, common-sense legislation without delay,” said Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican.

He hopes with the unanimous success of the Email Privacy Act by the House, this will encourage the Senate to pass this comparable proposal.

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