Senate Judiciary Passes Update to Email Privacy Law

Requires law enforcement to obtain warrant

The Senate Judiciary Committee today unanimously passed by voice vote an update to an aging email privacy law requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing private online content.

Co-sponsored by committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the bill now heads to the floor.

Passed in 1986, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act only called for a subpoena before law enforcement could read emails.

Updates to the bill are long overdue. Leahy and Lee's update alone drew strong support from a broad coalition of more than 100 privacy, civil liberties, civil rights and tech industry leaders.

"After years of work on ECPA reform, the time has come for Congress to enact these common-sense privacy reforms," said Leahy, who first proposed updates to the law in 2011.

Both the Senate and the House are taking on updates to the ECPA. As the Senate was marking up its update, the House Judiciary was holding a hearing on whether similar changes should be made to require warrants for law enforcement to gain access to a person's geolocation information.