Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday was joined by a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators to introduce legislation to modernize the nation’s electronic privacy laws and bring protections against warrantless searches into harmony with the technological realities of the 21stcentury.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015 (ECPA) was introduced by Leahy, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Representatives Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in the House. The bill requires the government to have a search warrant requirement to obtain the content of Americans’ emails and other electronic communications, when those communications are stored with a third-party service provider.
Leahy, who authored the original 1986 ECPA law, said the bill introduced Wednesday would bring needed privacy protections to Vermonters in the digital age.
Leahy said: “These reforms would protect Americans’ digital privacy – in their emails, and all the other files and photographs they store in the cloud. It builds consumer trust, and it provides law enforcement agencies with the proper tools they need to ensure public safety. This is a bipartisan issue, and now is the time to act swiftly to bring Americans’ privacy rights and protections into the digital age.”
Lee, who also joined with Leahy last Congress on legislation to update ECPA, said: “In the nearly three decades since ECPA became law, technology has advanced rapidly and beyond the imagination of anyone living in 1986. The prevalence of email and the low cost of electronic data storage have made what were once robust protections insufficient to ensure that citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights are adequately protected.”
Leahy and Lee previewed their bill introduction in a joint op-ed last week. The senators joined together in the last Congress to introduce nearly identical legislation, which was unanimouslyapproved by the Judiciary Committee. The bill introduced Wednesday is cosponsored by Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The House version of ECPA has 228 additional cosponsors. The bill enjoys support from a broad coalition of stakeholders across the political spectrum including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Heritage Action for America, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).