Congressman Nadler Statement Supporting Email Privacy Act

Feb 7, 2017 Issues: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. --  Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee and Ranking Member of the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee, urged his colleagues to support the Email Privacy Act. Rep. Nadler is an original co-sponsor of the legislation, which protects peoples’ privacy and civil liberties by requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing an individual’s electronic communications from a third-party provider. 

Below are the full remarks, as prepared, of Rep. Nadler from the House floor in support of the Email Privacy Act

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 387, the Email Privacy Act.  I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation, which will provide a critical update to the privacy laws governing electronic communications.

“The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA as it is known, was enacted in 1986.  It was an attempt to re-establish a balance between privacy and law enforcement needs, at a time when personal and business computing was becoming more commonplace.  Over the last 30 years, however, we have seen a revolution in communications technology, and what might have made sense in 1986 is vastly out of date today.

“New technologies – including cloud computing, social networking, and location-based services – have rendered many of the law’s provisions outdated, vague, or inapplicable to emerging innovations.  For example, even a single email is potentially subject to multiple different legal standards.

“In 2009 and 2010, when I was the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, we held multiple hearings to consider reforms to our Nation's electronic communication and privacy laws.  This work culminated in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Modernization Act of 2012, a bill I introduced along with Ranking Member Conyers, requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant based on probable cause before searching email.  That approach, now embodied in the Yoder-Polis Email Privacy Act, is what we are here to consider today. 

“In an era where government access to an individual’s private information held by third-party providers has become far too easy, this legislation will finally update our laws to reflect our new understanding of what it means, in the words of the Fourth Amendment, for 'people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.'

“Clarifying the laws will also help industry stakeholders, who currently struggle to apply the existing, outdated categories of information to their products and services, and it will provide a clear standard for law enforcement.  This bill is not perfect, and clearly there is more to be done.  In particular, we must keep working to require a probable cause warrant for location information.  However, this bill is an important step toward ensuring that our laws strike the right balance between the interests and needs of law enforcement, and the privacy rights of the American people.  I urge my colleagues to support it, and I yield back the balance of my time.”