More than a dozen web hosting companies signed a letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy and Sen. Chuck Grassley on Monday that urges members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to sign a new bill that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
Undersigned by more than 100 tech companies, the letter is in support of the ECPA Amendments Act, S. 607, which would update the ECPA “to provide stronger protection to sensitive personal and proprietary communications stored in the cloud.”
The bill is expected to come to a vote at the Committee’s next meeting, and would update the ECPA of 1986. The updated bill would require the government to obtain a search warrant before gaining access to private communications. According to report by the Hill on Thursday, as the current bill stands, police only need a subpoena, issued without a judge’s approval, to read emails that have been opened or are more than 180 days old.
Grassley expects the Committee to approve the legislation in the next meeting, even though last year he expressed concern that the bill could hinder law enforcement. It never received a vote on the Senate floor last year, according to the report.
“Though the law was forward-looking when enacted in 1986, technology has advanced dramatically and ECPA has been outpaced,” the letter reads. “Courts have issued inconsistent interpretations of the law, creating uncertainty for service providers, for law enforcement agencies, and for the hundreds of millions of Americans who use the Internet in their personal and professional lives. Moreover, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a provision of ECPA allowing the government to obtain a person’s email without a warrant is unconstitutional.”
“The ECPA Amendments Act would update ECPA in one key respect, making it clear that, except in emergencies, or under other existing exceptions, the government must obtain a warrant in order to compel a service provider to disclose the content of emails, texts or other private material stored by the service provider on behalf of its users,” the letter continues.
“This standard would create a more level playing field for technology. It would cure the constitutional defect identified by the Sixth Circuit. It would allow law enforcement officials to obtain electronic communications in all appropriate cases while protecting Americans’ constitutional rights. It would provide clarity and certainty to law enforcement agencies at all levels and to American businesses developing innovative new services and competing in a global marketplace. It would implement a core principle supported by Digital Due Process, www.digitaldueprocess.org, a broad coalition of companies, privacy groups, think tanks, and academics.”
The web hosting and software providers that signed the letter include Blacknight, cPanel, FireHost, Hedgehog Hosting, Media Temple, Rackspace, ServInt, A Small Orange, Superb Internet, UK2Group, Wired Tree, World Wide Web Hosting and the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition).
At the end of February, i2Coalition members, who include web hosts, security providers and hosting software developers, participated in the first ever Internet Advocacy Day to educate members of Congress about how the Internet works, including email.
Talk back: Do you support the ECPA Amendments Act, S. 607? Let us know in a comment.