TPA Joins Broad Coalition Urging Congress to Move on ECPA Reform

Michi Iljazi

April 14, 2016

The issue of privacy has garnered a great deal of attention lately, particularly with events in the news related phone encryption and data breaches. Privacy is still a concern for all Americans as we move forward in this advanced technological age. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance shares these concerns, and this week we signed on to this letter, made up of a diverse coalition, urging Congress to move forward with reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The reforms would ensure that warrants are granted before law enforcement can collect any emails and/or contents of other private online communications. As technology advances, it is important to make sure that law enforcement has the necessary tools in order to do their job, while making sure to respect privacy concerns of groups and individuals.

Read the full letter below

April 13, 2016

Chairman Bob Goodlatte
House Judiciary Committee
United States House of Representatives 

Ranking Member John Conyers
House Judiciary Committee
United States House of Representatives 

Dear Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, companies and trade associations, write to express our support for the Manager’s Substitute Amendment to the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 699). As amended, the Act updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the law that sets standards for government access to private internet communications, to reflect internet users’ reasonable expectations of privacy with respect to emails, texts, notes, photos, and other sensitive information stored in “the cloud.” 

The bill would end ECPA’s arbitrary “180-­‐‑day rule,” which permits email communications to be obtained without a warrant after 180 days. The Act would also reject the Department of Justice interpretation of ECPA that the act of opening an email removes it from warrant protection. These reforms would ratify the Sixth Circuit’s decision in U.S. v. Warshak, which held that email content is protected by the Fourth Amendment and that law enforcement access requires a probable cause warrant. Moreover, the changes reflect current practices: DOJ and FBI policies already require law enforcement officials seeking content to obtain a search warrant, and many service providers will not relinquish their users’ content without one. 

The Manager’s Substitute does not achieve all of the reforms we had hoped for. Indeed, it removes key provisions of the proposed bill, such as the section requiring notice from the government to the customer when a warrant is served, which are necessary to protect users. However, it does impose a warrant-­‐‑for-­‐‑content rule with limited exceptions. We are particularly pleased that the Manager’s Substitute does not carve out civil agencies from the warrant requirement, which would have expanded government surveillance power and undermined the very purpose of the bill. 

For these reasons, we support the bill as amended by the Manager’s Substitute.


ACT | The App Association Adobe
American Civil Liberties Union 
American Library Association 
Americans for Tax Reform 
Application Developers Alliance 
Association of Research Libraries 
BSA | The Software Alliance 
Center for Democracy & Technology
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights 
Computer & Communications Industry Association 
The Constitution Project
Consumer Action
Consumer Technology Association
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste 
Data Foundry, Inc.
Deluxe Corporation
Digital Liberty
Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) 
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Federation of Genealogical Societies Foursquare
The Future of Privacy Forum
Golden Frog, GmbH
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
HP Inc.
Information Technology Industry Council 
Information Technology & Innovation Foundation 
Internet Association
Internet Infrastructure Coalition -­‐‑ I2Coalition
The Jeffersonian Project
New America’s Open Technology Institute 
Newspaper Association of America
Niskanen Center
R Street Institute
Reform Government Surveillance
Software & Information Industry Association
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Venture Politics 

Michael W. Carroll, American University Washington College of Law* 
James X. Dempsey, University of California, Berkeley*
Paul Rosenzweig, Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation* 

* For identification only.

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