Engine Statement on House Judiciary Committee Approval of ECPA Reform Bill

Photo Credit: Martin Jacobsen

Photo Credit: Martin Jacobsen

Engine applauds the House Judiciary Committee’s action today to approve the Email Privacy Act, which makes much needed reforms to the outdated Electronic Communications and Privacy Act (ECPA) by explicitly requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing digital communications.

“Privacy advocates and the tech community have been working for years to modernize privacy laws to bring them out of the digital dark ages. This bill will ensure that more than forty years after the invention of email, electronic communications are finally afforded similar protections against warrantless searches that are applied to physical property,” said Evan Engstrom, Executive Director of Engine. “These reforms are important for startups, which are often put in a difficult position due to uncertainties around compliance with outdated regulations. The Email Privacy Act would help revive consumer confidence in the security of their digitally stored information and their trust in online services, in turn benefitting entrepreneurs and startups across the U.S.”

Specifically, the Email Privacy Act would end ECPA’s arbitrary “180-day rule,” which permits email communications to be obtained without a warrant after 180 days, and clarify that the act of opening and email does not remove it from warrant protection. Additionally, the legislation would extend the same protections to a document stored in the cloud as a document stored under user control.

Just this morning, Engine joined more than 50 civil society groups, trade associations, and companies big and small in sending a letter to the House Judiciary Committee supporting the substitute amendment to the Email Privacy Act that was adopted today. You can read the full letter here.

We urge the full House and Senate to pass the Email Privacy Act as expeditiously as possible, and look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to update America’s digital privacy laws.