Email privacy to take top priority in Senate, potentially limiting government snooping into your digital life

Email privacy to take top priority in Senate, potentially limiting government snooping into your digital ...

We have some good news for your Monday: email privacy as a legislative priority and actionable issue is not dead.

It was with some sadness that we reported that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) would not be amended to better privacy for individuals users of electronic communications in the last Congress. The idea of improving the safeguards for private communication was one to be applauded, not dismissed.

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Key to the issue is the fact that the ECPA is decades old legislation, and that under its regulations any email that is more 180 days old and has been read can be accessed with nothing more than a subpoena. The goal was to change that requirement to a formal warrant to access any electronic communication.

The idea, however, is not dead. According to The Hill, it merely went dormant in between Congressional sessions:

[Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s] top technology priority will likely be to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require that police obtain a warrant before reading people’s emails, Facebook messages or other forms of electronic communication.

It will have a much higher chance of passing as his chief priority than as simply one of many agenda items for the committee.

In the Senate, previously, the concept passed. However, it failed to pass House Republicans who worried about its impact on police work. This is a clear-cut issue that balances individual privacy and the ability of law enforcers to move quickly. TNW falls on the side of individual liberty at the expense of ease of government oversight of our private lives.

As the issue progresses, we’ll keep you informed.

Top Image Credit: Zoe Rudisill

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