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April 28, 2016

House Approves Email Privacy Act 419-0, Drawing Tech Industry Praise

  Consumer Electronics Daily

By a 419-0 vote, the House approved the Email Privacy Act (HR-699), which would protect the content of people's emails and electronic communications (see 1604260014). Approval of the measure, which updates part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, was hailed by privacy and technology associations, which said ECPA lagged behind the rapid advancement of technologies such as cloud computing.

"In order for the law to keep up with technology and users' reasonable expectation of privacy, that information must be protected by a search warrant," said Center for Democracy and Technology's Chris Calabrese in a statement. He was one of the negotiators who forged a compromise bill with the House Judiciary Committee, which approved HR-699 two weeks ago.

The measure, which was introduced by Reps. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., in February 2014, was expected to pass because it had 314 co-sponsors.

"Citizens should no longer be at risk of having their emails warrantlessly searched by government agencies," said Polis in a statement. "The Email Privacy Act will update our archaic privacy laws for the 21st century and safeguard our Fourth Amendment rights."

CTA President Gary Shapiro said in a statement that the same privacy protections apply now to both online communications and physical mail. It will "instill confidence in consumers that personal data is legally protected, no matter where it is stored," he added. Similar statements came from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Institute for Policy Innovation, Internet Association and TechNet.

In a joint statement, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Pat Leahy, D-Vt., who introduced a similar measure in the Senate, called the House vote "a historic step" in updating privacy laws. They said their bill has broad support and urged the Senate to act and pass it (see 1604140010).


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