Ever have the feeling when it comes to reform of the nation’s privacy and surveillance laws that you might as well cancel your online news subscription and just put this year’s date on that copy of last year’s story you saved in the cloud? You know the file we mean. It’s the one – along with all of your emails, texts, tweets, photos or cloud-stored info – that the government doesn’t need a warrant to get without your permission if it’s more than six months old. (This ACLU infographic lays it out well.)
Yup. You read that right, and you may have read about it last right here in “Warrant? Who Needs a Warrant??!!??,” which reported on the then latest wrinkle in the multi-year fight to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to finally bring it – and all of our Fourth Amendment rights – out of the Bronze and into the Digital Age.
ALA and other national privacy advocates had high hopes last year for House passage of Reps. Kevin Yoder’s (R-KS) and Jared Polis’ (D-CO) “Email Privacy Act” given that it had been co-sponsored by well over half of all Members of the House, including a majority of Republicans. Parallel legislation by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) also was advanced in the Senate. Without the backing of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, however, the bill never made it to the House floor and it evaporated with the 113th Congress at the end of 2014.
As of early this month, both bills are back and – not to rest on his laurels – Rep. Yoder at this writing already has racked up an amazing 240 cosponsors (154 of them fellow Republicans) for the 114th Congress’ version of the Email Privacy Act, H.R. 699. On the same day, Sens. Lee and Leahy also “dropped” their Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015, S. 356, which now has 11 cosponsors.
The American Library Association (ALA), and we hope you too, will be pushing hard in this Congress to finally reform ECPA. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to sign up for the District Dispatch so that, when the time comes, you too can help pull the plug on that giant sucking sound you may hear every time you text, tweet, email or click “save.”