Rep. Nadler Praises Passage of the Email Privacy Act

Apr 27, 2016 Issues: Civil Liberties, Civil Rights

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, praised passage of the Email Privacy Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant in order to access peoples’ electronic communications from a third-party provider.  Congressman Nadler introduced similar legislation in 2012 and has been pushing for these type of privacy protections since he led hearings into the issue in 2009. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 419 to 0.

Congressman Nadler said, "In an era where government access to peoples’ private information held by third-party providers has become far too easy, Congress is finally taking steps to update our laws to reflect our new understanding of what it means for people to be 'secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.'"

The full text of the statement as prepared is below:

"Mr. Chairman, I rise to support the Email Privacy Act.       

"It has long been evident that we need to update the laws impacting electronic communications and privacy. I am pleased that, today, the House will take a major step forward by considering the Email Privacy Act. Its passage is long overdue.

"In 2009 and 2010, when I was the Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, we held multiple hearings on ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) and began to seriously consider reforms to our nation’s electronic communication and privacy laws. During the 112th Congress, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. and I introduced the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Modernization Act of 2012, which would have required 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.

"The Email Privacy Act requires the government to obtain a warrant in order to access peoples’ electronic communications from a third-party provider, protecting Americans’ privacy rights while still enabling law enforcement to do its job.  This is consistent with historic American practice going back to the Fourth Amendment. Current law is inconsistent and unclear regarding the standards for government access to the content of communications, and a single email is potentially subject to multiple different legal standards.  Clarifying the laws will 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.

"In an era where government access to peoples’ private information held by third-party providers has become far too easy, Congress is finally taking steps to update our laws to reflect our new understanding of what it means for people to be ‘secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.’ 

"This bill is not perfect and clearly there is more to be done.  In particular, we must ensure that we keep working to require a probable cause warrant for location information.  I am pleased that the Chairman has announced that he plans to hold hearings on location information, and I look forward to those hearings.

"I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the bill, and I applaud the House for considering this landmark legislation today.  I urge my colleagues to support its passage to ensure that our laws strike the right balance between the interests and needs of law enforcement and the privacy of the American people.

"Thank you.  I yield back."

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