The law that the measure would amend is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which has seen few updates following President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 signature on the measure.
The proposal represents yet another attempt to rewrite legislation that generally grants the government wide powers to access Americans’ cloud-stored data without a probable-case showing.
“Communications technology is evolving at an exponential rate and, as such, requires corresponding updates to our privacy laws,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), who is sponsoring the package with Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Michigan). “This new legislation will ensure that ECPA strikes the right balance between the interests and needs of law enforcement and the privacy interests of the American people.”
Adopted when CompuServe was king, ECPA allows the government to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed, as long as the content had been stored on a third-party server for 180 days or more. E-mail and other cloud-stored data younger than six months is protected by the warrant requirement, as is all data stored on a personal computer drive.