NTU Urges House to Protect Email Privacy

NTU urges all Representatives to vote “YES” on H.R. 699, the “Email Privacy Act.” This bipartisan legislation would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to require law enforcement and other government entities to obtain a warrant before compelling the release of private, personal data such as emails or customer records.

Currently, under ECPA, no warrant is needed on digital communications that have been in storage with a third-party Service Provider for at least 180 days. An update to ECPA is vital to extend the Fourth Amendment’s protections of “papers and effects” to those stored electronically across a variety of platforms and personal devices.

These reforms are necessary to protect Americans subject to investigation not only on the part of law enforcement, but also from civil agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For example, a 2013 Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that the IRS may have been ignoring a court order requiring the government to regard taxpayer emails and texts as protected by the Fourth Amendment. According to a 2009 IRS handbook, such communications did not “have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” For the sake of taxpayer rights, limits on the IRS’s latitude must be clarified now.

Though the final version of H.R. 699 to emerge from the House Judiciary Committee removed an important provision requiring customers to be notified directly when a warrant has been served, the legislation is still a critical check on big government. It would strengthen the boundaries on government’s ability to pry into Americans’ emails and texts, and provide Fourth Amendment safeguards similar to those already enjoyed with our homes, cars, and other property.

Roll call votes on H.R. 699 will be included in our annual Rating of Congress and a “YES” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.

If you have any questions, please contact NTU Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift at (703) 683-5700