Rebooting Electronic Privacy Rights

When the framers drafted the Constitution, Americans' privacy rights were of great importance and necessary in establishing protections for the people. However, as technology has advanced exponentially, our government has fallen short of upholding and extending those privacy protections to the digital space.

The Fourth Amendment protects documents stored in a desk drawer and file cabinet, but did you know those same documents stored in the "cloud" are vulnerable to warrantless search and seizure?

That's because the law governing our online communications was enacted in 1986 -- long before people interacted through text messages, social media and for most Americans, even email. At that time, Congress could not envision that we would one day store our information in the "cloud" or host the majority of our correspondences online. As such, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) is woefully outdated, and does not provide the necessary protections to Americans' online communications that they deserve.

ECPA says that government agencies can access online communications that have been stored for over 180 days with merely a subpoena, meaning no prior consideration from a judge is necessary.

Fortunately, there is a solution for this gaping hole in our nation's privacy rights -- ECPA reform.

We are proud to join with many of our colleagues in co-sponsoring the Email Privacy Act. This legislation would update ECPA for the digital age by requiring the government to get a warrant in order to access private online communications. The Email Privacy Act is a simple solution that would provide the appropriate Fourth Amendment protections for all Americans. Moreover, it has broad bipartisan support with more than 200 co-sponsors and counting. This is practical reform every American can stand behind.

The American people deserve to have their privacy rights updated for the digital age. Congress can extend the protections established in the Constitution to their online communications by passing the Email Privacy Act. The time for ECPA reform is now.