The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering bipartisan legislation to address privacy issues arising from modern communications technology. Similar legislation passed the Committee last year, but was not taken up by the full Senate.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 would require a governmental agency to obtain a search warrant before obtaining the content of email, text messages, or other electronic communications from a third party service provider. It would also require both the service provider and the government to provide notice to the customer that the records have been disclosed. The court issuing the warrant could delay the notice if compelling law enforcement reasons existed.
The existing Electronic Communications Privacy Act was enacted in 1986. It has been criticized as being out-dated in light of the enormous technological advances in the last 27 years. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “Privacy laws written in an analog era are no longer suited for privacy threats we face in a digital world. Three decades later, we must update this law to reflect new privacy concerns and new technological realities, so that our Federal privacy laws keep pace with American innovation and the changing mission of our law enforcement agencies.”