US lawmakers introduce two bills to protect email privacy

Both bills would require law enforcement agencies to get court-ordered warrants for older stored communications

A long-standing effort to extend privacy protections to email and other data in the cloud got new life Thursday when U.S. lawmakers introduced not one, but two bills to reform the country's electronic privacy laws.

Both the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, called the LEADS Act, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Amendments Act would require law enforcement agencies to get court-ordered warrants to search data that's been stored on Web-based or cloud-based services for more than 180 days.

Under the 29-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act [ECPA], law enforcement agencies do not need a court-ordered warrant to search unopened e-mail stored with a vendor for longer than 180 days, although they do need court approval to access unopened e-mail less than 180 days old.

Several tech vendors and digital rights groups have been pushing for ECPA reform since early 2010, but Congress has failed to act. In an era of cloud computing, it doesn't make sense for data stored past six months to have fewer legal protections than other personal data, backers of ECPA reform say.

The LEADS Act was introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, and Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican. The legislation is similar to a bill of the same name that Hatch and other senators introduced last year.

Sponsors of the ECPA Amendments Act in the Senate include Senators Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, and Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. A House of Representatives version of the same bill is sponsored by Representatives Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican, and Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat.

"In 2015, it is absurd that the government is free to rifle through Americans' emails that are older than six months," Wyden said in a statement. "Because of this arcane law, as technology advances, Americans' civil liberties are eroding."

Among the companies voicing support for the LEADS Act were Microsoft and Verizon Communications. The LEADS Act offers "common-sense reforms" to ECPA, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, wrote in a blog post. "The LEADS Act is a real solution to a real problem."

The bill would also limit the overseas reach of search warrants, Smith noted. During the past year, Microsoft has been fighting a New York warrant for emails stored in the company's facility in Dublin.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. SenateDean HellerJared PolisKevin YoderOrrin Hatchcloud computinglegislationinternetprivacyMicrosoftRon WydensecurityBrad SmithgovernmentChris CoonsPatrick Leahy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?