A new bill just submitted by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) would make search warrants mandatory before a police agency would be able to read someone’s e-mail. Currently, police agencies have unhindered access to private e-mail accounts.
Under the current "Electronic Communications and Privacy Act" (ECPA) passed in 1986, police agencies, which include all federal and local police, can read your e-mail without a search warrant. Back in the day the act was passed so that the FBI wouldn’t have to get a warrant for every wiretap on a telephone line. Now that the Internet has come about, e-mails, voIP, chat and so forth have been blanketed under that same act.
Now a bipartisan group of lawmakers want to change the law and make it illegal to read someone’s email without first getting a search warrant issued. The new bill, which is an amendment to update title 18 of the U.S. code, would also negate the opinion of the Obama administration that obtaining electronic information is legal under the Constitution.
Representatives, Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) are supporting the new legislation. Not only would the bill protect users' E-mails but it would also protect users’ location privacy as well.
In a recent press release Representative Zoe Lofgren(D) of California wrote that the "Fourth Amendment protections don’t stop at the Internet,” she further added that by establishing a search warrant, as mandatory by law before any police agency could access electronic data, it would also help with keeping users’ data private and secure.
Lofgren also feels that the new bill would give ISPs better reason to tell their customers that their data is secured and “foster greater trust with their users and international trading partners."
There are a few things that the bill does not protect, and it would never over rule the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” which allows for warrantless access to communications overseas. It would not protect location privacy either in regards to overseas communications. It also states that police would have the authority to deal with "conspiratorial activities characteristic of organized crime."
Representative Ted Poe(R) of Texas stated that the world in which we live is far different and far more technologically advanced than the world in 1986. In a public statement he wrote that Washington had an obligation to modernize the ECPA to catch up with the times. Poe further added, “Technology may change, but the Constitution does not", in reference to the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.