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.
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.