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This article was published on April 13, 2016

Feds may soon need a warrant to read your email — but we’ve been here before

Feds may soon need a warrant to read your email — but we’ve been here before
Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

Today, the US House Judiciary Committee approved legislation requiring law enforcement agencies secure a warrant to obtain email stored in the cloud.

The Email Privacy act would supersede Reagan-era legislation that allowed authorities to access email from service providers without a warrant if the message was at least six months old. Of course, this legislation was written when CompuServe ruled the roost and documents were considered ‘abandoned’ after six months under that piece of legislation.

Chances are the approved legislation goes nowhere. We’ve had similar pieces that have been approved or debated by Congress for nearly a decade and we still don’t have a law that considers email correspondence private and worthy of a warrant.

The Center for Democracy and Technology applauded the move, but I fear it is far more optimistic than I when it comes to the possibility of this becoming law.

“Every single American will enjoy greater privacy protection in their personal communications with the passage of the Email Privacy Act. It’s a huge step forward to bring the same protections we enjoy in our homes to our digital lives,” said Chris Calabrese, the group’s VP of policy. “With such overwhelming support, the House should move quickly to vote for and pass this essential bill.”

Next up, the bill needs to reach the House of Representatives for a vote — which is where this bill has failed in the past. After that, the Senate would have to approve it and then pass it along to President Obama before leaving office in January.

It’s an uphill climb, but it’s a good start.