House Passes Email Privacy Act
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) issued the following statement after the House passed H.R. 699 -- The Email Privacy Act – bipartisan legislation she cosponsored that will modernize the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to protect Americans’ privacy and provide law enforcement with tools needed for its investigations.
“This important legislation modernizes our laws to keep pace with 21st century technologies,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Technology has changed dramatically since the ECPA was written in 1986 and we must keep our privacy laws current to protect Americans’ Constitutional rights while ensuring our law enforcement has the tools they need to keep the public safe.”
Summary of H.R. 699: The Email Privacy Act modernizes ECPA to protect Americans’ privacy and provide law enforcement with tools needed for its investigations. It currently has over 300 cosponsors. Below are key provisions of the bill.
Warrant requirement: The bill creates a uniform warrant standard for law enforcement to obtain the content of communications in criminal investigations. ECPA warrants will continue to be executed with the provider since, as with any other third-party custodian, the information is stored with them. It allows the provider to notify its customers of receipt of a warrant, court order, or subpoena, unless the provider is court ordered to delay such notification.
Remote Computing Services: The bill maintains current law that delineates which remote computing service providers – or cloud providers – are subject to the warrant requirement for content in a criminal investigation. ECPA has traditionally imposed heightened legal process and procedures to obtain information for which the customer has a reasonable expectation of privacy, namely emails, texts, photos, videos, and documents stored in the cloud.
Allows Law Enforcement to Access Public Information: ECPA currently makes no distinction between content disclosed to the public, like an advertisement on a website, versus content disclosed only to one or a handful of persons, like an email or text message. The result is that law enforcement would be required to obtain a warrant even for publicly-disclosed content. The bill clarifies that commercial public content can be obtained with a process other than a warrant.
Maintains Congress’s investigative power: The bill clarifies that nothing in the law limits Congress’s subpoena authority to obtain information from third parties in furtherance of congressional oversight.