July 27, 2017

WASHINGTON — Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced today the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017, a bill to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA).

Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, issued the following statement:

“We applaud Senators Leahy and Lee for introducing this bill in an effort to ensure that Americans’ privacy is protected in the digital age. Technology has advanced rapidly since 1986, but our laws have not. ECPA was passed before the invention of many communications devices commonly used today, including the internet and smartphones. Yet, Congress has yet to follow the examples of many states to update our privacy laws.

“The proposed bill would make clear that the Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement to get a warrant in order to access emails, location data, and other sensitive information. It would also ensure that the government complies with its obligation to notify individuals when their location and content information is requested. We urge the Congress to pass this important bill.”

The bill would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to make clear that the government must obtain a warrant to obtain content and location information from third party providers, and it must provide notice to individuals when such information is obtained. It also provides exceptions to the warrant requirement in emergencies, while putting in place protections to ensure that such exceptions are not abused.

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