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Westerman Votes to Enhance Email Privacy

February 6, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) issued the following statement Monday (February 6) upon passage of H.R. 387, the Email Privacy Act of 2017:

“In the 30 years since the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 was signed into law, our world has changed and advanced in ways that were unimaginable,” Westerman said. “Our nation’s electronic privacy laws were written in a day and age before social media and mass communication were accessible with the tap of a finger. That is why I voted today for the Email Privacy Act, which would update the ECPA to modern standards in order to protect the privacy of the American people and provide law enforcement the tools needed to properly and legally investigate crime. Not only does the EPA update a 30-year-old law, but it makes sure the law continues to keep pace with technological advances while protecting the constitutional rights of Americans.”

According to the House Republican Conference, key provisions of the bill include:

  • 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 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.