The House passed the Email Privacy Act unanimously by voice vote on Monday.
The bill requires government agencies and law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing the contents of any electronic communications that are being stored by third-party service providers.
Current law under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 only requires the government to get a warrant for emails that have been stored for less than 180 days, meaning that all emails older than that can be obtained without a warrant.
Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Jared Polis (D-CO) first introduced the Email Privacy Act in the 114th Congress, where it passed through the House with overwhelming bipartisan support with a final vote of 419-0 in April of 2016. The bill didn't make it through the Senate during the 114th Congress, but it looks like senators will get a second chance to address the issue this year.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), released a statement following the bill's passage:
As technology has far-outpaced the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, the Email Privacy Act modernizes this decades-old law to establish a uniform warrant requirement to acquire stored electronic communications in criminal investigations. These updates to the law will better safeguard Americans’ constitutional rights while also protecting law enforcement’s ability to fight crime. As the House again has overwhelmingly approved this bill, it’s time for the Senate to take up this bipartisan legislation and send it to the President’s desk to become law.”
Cosponsor of the bill, Jared Polis, took to the floor to talk about the necessity of the Email Privacy Act prior to the vote, saying, “this bill catches up with the reasonable expectation that consumers have that their emails are private.” He continued, “there is nothing more common sense than the Email Privacy Act.”