Panel 9

February 23rd, 2015

By: Alexia J Boyarsky

Proposed Congressional Reform to Government Access to Emails

New bi-partisan Congressional bill was introduced this week, resembling a similar bill from last year, that would require the government to get a warrant prior to obtaining access to any emails. As current law stands under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act from 1986, the government only needs a subpoena for old emails (older than 180 days) or for read emails. These provisions made some limited sense when the bill was enacted because storage space was expensive and most people did not keep their emails for that long. However, in the modern day, the Congressmen argue that emails have become so pervasive and so private that more protections are vital.

Currently, 240 cosponsors have signed onto the deal, which makes it possible that it will pass Congress. After the Patriot Act, the most vocal opposition to government searches of emails was silenced, however, in the wake of news of the National Security Agency surveillance leaks, there has been more support throughout Congress for laws that limit the government’s abilities to search citizens’ emails. These reintroduced bills will be voted on either this month or next, and barring a comparable bureaucratic stalemate such as what killed the bill last year, they are likely to pass.