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Progress! Email Privacy Act clears House

Congratulations library advocates! For the second time in just over 9 months, the US House of Representatives last night passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387 in this Congress) by voice vote.  Propelled by more than 1,100 library supporters, the bill now moves to the Senate where the timing of its consideration – and ultimate fate – are not yet clear.

Magnifying Glass highlight the words "we're watching you" hidden in binary code

Source: rstreet.org, http://www.rstreet.org/2015/08/04/white-house-offers-tepid-response-on-email-privacy/

As previously discussed in DD, the bill’s primary purpose and benefit is to finally update the anachronistic Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). This would to require law enforcement authorities to obtain a judicial search warrant based on probable cause in order to obtain the actual content of an individual’s email, texts, tweets, cloud-stored files and photos or other electronic information. Under ECPA as still written, no such warrant typically is required for electronic communications older than six months. (This ACLU infographic lays out the problem well.)

Next month will mark the 6th anniversary of ALA’s charter membership in the Digital Due Process coalition, formed to harness the grassroots and Washington muscle of many organizations and companies in the service of ECPA reform.  With just one Senate vote between us and that goal, we’re not about to let up now.  Please stay tuned for yet another action alert, this time focused on the Senate, once we and our partners know more about when that will have the best chance of putting the Email Privacy Act on the President’s desk.

About Adam Eisgrau

Adam Eisgrau is a 30-year veteran of Washington legal practice, government service, public and private sector lobbying, and strategic communications and policy consulting. Having originally served as its first Legislative Counsel from 1995 to 1999 handling digital copyright matters, Adam rejoined ALA’s Washington Office in September 2014 as Managing Director of the Office of Government Relations. His issue portfolio currently includes Copyright, Privacy & Surveillance, Cybersecurity, Encryption and Data Security. Adam received a BA in American Studies from Dartmouth College and his JD from Harvard Law School.

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