ECPA Clears Senate Committee, Will Go To Vote Next Year

IT Management

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Sen. Patrick Leahy's ECPA amendment is an important one. It would require the authorities to obtain a warrant before pilfering emails. The current bill allows the authorities to access email with only a subpoena if the email in question is over 180 days old. There was a lot of resistance on the part of law enforcement when the amendment was first brought up, but concerns of privacy won out in the end.

The Hill reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted today in favor of Leahy's ECPA amendment, privacy protections and all. Leahy expects the bill to go to vote before the Senate and the House next year. He also says that he will negotiate with the House when the bill comes next year to ensure its passage.

While the committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill, there were a few members who felt the bill doesn't do enough to provide the tools law enforcement needs to catch criminals. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa voted in favor, but said that the bill will need some work before it goes up for vote.

It's noted that Leahy's ECPA amendment conceded to law enforcement in one area - the time delay allotted to law enforcement before they must inform an individual that their emails were seized. The current ECPA's time delay is 90 days, but Leahy's amendment sought to increase the delay to 180 days. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah successfully introduced an amendment that reduced the delay back to 90 days for civil cases.

Leahy attached the ECPA amendment to another digital privacy bill that will be going before the Senate and House next year - the Video Privacy Act. The proposed changes to the VPPA would allow consumers to share their video history on social networks. Understandably, Netflix has been the biggest proponent of the change since it's been forced to pay out once before for violating the archaic law.

If the bill passes, your email will be secure and your Netflix history will be available for posting on Facebook. I call that a win-win situation.