WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has used a rare show of unanimity to approve legislation requiring the government to get a warrant if it wants people’s older emails.
The legislation would require federal agencies to get a warrant before they can force an email service provider like Google to provide access to data over 180 days old.
Also covered would be electronic documents like stored videos, text messages and photos.
The bill updates a three-decade-old law enacted when the use of email was rare. Under it, older emails are considered abandoned and allows government access without a warrant.
The House approved the bill Wednesday by 419-0. Its top sponsors are Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis.
A similar, bipartisan Senate bill has yet to advance there.
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Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS-02) released the following statement about this bill:
The American people’s privacy is a fundamental, sacred right. It is the lynchpin upon which so many of our other freedoms rest. But in order to protect those freedoms, we must also balance the needs of law enforcement alongside the rights of Americans.
That’s why we need legislation like Mr. Yoder’s Email Privacy Act. This bill codifies the basic tenets of privacy and security to ensure the rights of the American people are upheld.
This bill standardizes the warrant process for law enforcement agencies. It clarifies what material is public and what is private. It gives the necessary tools to law enforcement agencies, without compromising the privacy rights of Americans.
The last few years have eroded the American people’s trust in the government’s ability to protect their privacy. This legislation is a step in the right direction to rebuilding the trust and protecting the rights of Americans nationwide.