Support for revising 'email privacy law' increases in US
Law enforcement officials are try to defend a 25-year-old email privacy law which critics call 'woefully outdated', as the Senate continues to weigh on having new protections to safeguard digital communications.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is debating on a proposed revision of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
According to Fox News, when first enacted in 1986, few people kept old emails that can now be stored cheaply and indefinitely.
Yet the law still requires only an administrative subpoena for law enforcement to access emails older than six months.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy wants the law revised to require a court-issued warrant, and also has other changes in mind.
"This critical privacy law is significantly outdated and outpaced by rapid changes in technology and the changing mission of our law enforcement agencies." Leahy said.
"When I led the effort to write the ECPA more than 25 years ago, no one could have imagined that emails would be stored electronically for years or envisioned the many new threats to privacy in cyberspace," he said.
"That is why I am working to update this law to reflect the realities of our time and to better protect privacy in the digital age," he added.
According to the report, the law must be updated in order to preserve the intent of the men who framed the Constitution.
The proposed revisions have gained support from across the political spectrum, with conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist and the American Civil Liberties Union's Laura Murphy penning an editorial for The Hill backing it, the report said.
"Today, if the police want to come into your house and take your personal letters, they need a warrant," the pair wrote, adding: "If they want to read those same letters saved on Google or Yahoo they don't. The Fourth Amendment has eroded online".
Officials in law enforcement and some lawmakers have pushed back, saying the proposed changes would impede vital investigations, the report said.
The Judiciary Committee ranking Republican, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, has voiced concern the bill would create 'new barriers', the report added.