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May 6, 2016

It's The Senate's Turn To Protect Your Digital Rights

 

When is the last time you saw the House of Representatives pass any legislation of benefit to Americans in a bipartisan manner? There hasn’t been much of that lately, to say the least.

But on April 27th, the House passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699) by an astonishing unanimous vote, 419-0. We weren’t surprised that the bill passed by a large margin—with 315 co-sponsors we knew it would pass if House leadership would simply allow the vote. But unanimous passage was certainly the cherry on top of the sundae.

A strong vote in favor was appropriate, because there is almost universal agreement on both the problem and the solution. Failing to understand the future development of electronic communication, Congress made a mistake in 1986 by passing a law that exempted electronic communications stored for more than 180 days from Fourth Amendment protections. How Congress could ever exempt anything from the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights is another story, but given how electronic communications has woven itself into the warp and woof of our lives, it’s long past time for Congress to fix its 30-year-old mistake.

There is little controversy over this legislative fix, as a 419-0 vote suggests. Some government regulatory agencies treasure their ability to violate the Fourth Amendment and gain access to your digital communications for their investigations, but we’re pretty much at the point where anyone who values individual liberty and the Bill of Rights should simply reject their complaints, which have been given due consideration and rejected.

Presidential politics means we have only about two months left of useful legislative time, so it’s time for the Senate to get its act together and move the Email Privacy Act.

There’s every reason for them to do so. Not only is it the right thing to do from a constitutional perspective, but it also gives them something to take back to their voters on the campaign trail. Digital privacy is a bi-partisan issue that resonates with voters across political, economic and demographic spectrums. A poll by Vox Populi Polling found that 80 percent of respondents support updating the law to enhance digital privacy.

Right now, your digital rights are simply not protected by existing law. The onus now is on the Senate to do something about it.


 

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