The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday voted that law enforcement agencies be required to obtain search warrants before seeking access to email and other stored data. The Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387) passed by voice vote. It is aimed at updating the antiquated Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which grants law enforcement agents warrantless access to stored data, if such data is left on a third-party server for more than 180 days.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act is a dinosaur since it was passed in 1986, before the internet was even a reality, and certainly before the advent of modern computer systems with the ability to store data on servers.
The Email Privacy Act previously cleared the House in 2016 with a 419-0 vote, but hit a roadblock in the Senate due to resistance by some Republican lawmakers. There is a possibility that the legislation will also encounter resistance this time around.
Tech companies, including Google, Microsoft, Apple and others have lobbied Congress for years to pass the Email Privacy Act, and this vote by the House is considered a boost to the agitation for less government surveillance by privacy advocates. Privacy advocates contend that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder 9R-Kan.), and was co-sponsored by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Doug Collins (R-Ga.).