Support the ECPA Modernization Act, S. 1657

On behalf of our activist community, I urge you to contact your senators and urge them to support the ECPA Modernization Act, S. 1657, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The bill would greatly increase individual privacy by adding warrant requirements to email collection by legal authorities and add other legal protections to defend citizens’ rights.

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) was originally written in 1986, more than 30 years ago, well before the widespread use of email. Under existing statute, law enforcement to access emails and online data that are older than 180 days without a warrant.

Email and cloud computing have transformed the way we use electronic data, and ECPA is sorely in need of an upgrade. Sen. Lee has noted, “Americans don’t believe the federal government should have warrantless access to their emails just because they are 180 days old.”

The ECPA Modernization Act is the answer to that exact problem. The bill would add warrant requirements for authorities to get content from emails, regardless of how old they are. This would include both historical and real-time information for the location of an individual. Also, any individual whose information has been accessed must be notified within ten days of what content has been acquired.

It also adds significant burden of proof requirements in order to get a warrant. Case in point, a gag order can only be required by the presentation of “specific and articulable facts.” The same is true for a pen register/trap and trace. This will greatly defend the rights of the individuals and their content.

The importance of the Fourth Amendment is without question and our laws must be updated to ensure that we also enjoy fourth amendment protections in the digital world. This bill would greatly expand due process to the Internet and bring federal legislation into the 21st Century. For these reasons, I urge you to contact your senators and urge them to support the ECPA Modernization Act, S. 1657.


Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks