Congress

Email privacy bill could move in the fall

Shutterstock image: the Capitol Building in the fall with orange leaves.

A Senate bill to standardize the way the government treats email for the purposes of law enforcement access could clear an important hurdle when Congress returns from its summer recess. The measure will get a markup in the Judiciary Committee, according to a spokesperson Utah Republican Mike Lee, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill, aimed at updating the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, would require law enforcement to obtain warrants to search email stored on remote servers. Currently, email providers can divulge the contents of communications stored in cloud email accounts or other remote storage facilities for longer than six months to law enforcement officials without a warrant. The 1986 law was written before the advent of cloud computing, and before the widespread use of instruments like national security letters to obtain information from communications providers. Then, the main objective was to create rules for wiretapping email communications in transit.

On the House side, Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) are pushing a companion measure that has attracted 292 cosponsors. Greg Nojeim, senior council at the Center for Democracy and Technology, noted in a Sept. 2 press briefing that it was the most-sponsored bill ever not to have a vote in Congress. A markup in the House Judiciary Committee has not been scheduled.

In other Congress news, Nojeim predicted that it might be overly optimistic to look for a Senate vote on the Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Act in September. Given the crowded schedule, with the Iran vote, the need to pass a continuing resolution by the end of fiscal 2015 and ancillary matters like the coming visit of Pope Francis to Washington, D.C., cybersecurity will likely get pushed to October.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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