Senate Judiciary Reports ECPA

By Elizabeth

Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 (ECPA), which updates one of the nation’s most important digital privacy laws to protect the privacy of emails, texts, and other electronic communications.  Coauthored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the ECPA amendments act would establish a search warrant requirement for the government to obtain the content of Americans’ emails when those communications are stored with a third-party service provider. The bill eliminates the outdated “180-day” rule that calls for different legal standards for the government to obtain email content depending upon the age of an email. The bill would also require the government to notify any individual whose electronic communications have been disclosed within 10 days of obtaining a search warrant.

The Judiciary Committee adopted two amendments to the bill in today’s markup. The first was a technical amendment offered by Chairman Leahy to clarify the rule of construction, and the second an amendment requiring the Comptroller General to conduct a review of the use of the law, offered by Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.

At the same time as the Senate Judiciary markup, the House Judiciary Committee held its own hearing on ECPA, focusing on geolocation privacy and surveillance.  ECPA enjoys bipartisan support in both chambers.

AALL applauds this crucial step forward in ECPA reform and as a member of the Digital Due Process coalition, we will continue to advocate for stronger privacy protections for communications in response to changes in technology, while preserving the legal tools necessary for government agencies to enforce the laws, respond to emergency circumstances and protect the public. For more information on AALL’s position on ECPA, see our recent Advocacy One-Pager.

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