As the Senate prepares to take up sweeping cybersecurity information sharing legislation this week, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said lawmakers must also work to protect Americans’ emails and other private information stored in the cloud.
On Tuesday, Lee and Leahy filed the bipartisan Electronic Communications Privacy Amendments Act of 2015 as an amendment to the information sharing bill. The Lee-Leahy ECPA bill updates a three-decade-old law to protect Americans’ email and other data held in the cloud. It requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause before accessing it. It also replaces the obsolete “180-day rule,” which allows warrantless access to older emails. The bill has a strong bipartisan list of cosponsors including more than 20 Senators and more than 290 members in the House.
“Most Americans would be shocked to learn that because of a decades old quirk in the law, their emails and other digital communications older than 180 days are not fully protected by the 4th Amendment,” Lee said. “Considering the ubiquity of digital information today, it is far past time we updated federal law on digital privacy."
“The Senate must have a full, meaningful debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bill and its implications for Americans’ privacy. Part of that debate should be a discussion about protecting Americans’ email privacy. This amendment ensures that the private information Americans electronically store in the cloud gets the same protections as the private information they physically store at home,” Leahy said.
The ECPA Amendments Act of 2015 enjoys broad support from the technology industry, privacy advocates, constitutional scholars, and policy groups across the ideological spectrum.