Senate panel approves electronic privacy measure that requires warrants for emails

By Daniel S Levine,

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a key piece of legislation that brings the Electronic Communications Privacy Act into the 21st Century. The measure will require law enforcement to get a warrant in order to search a suspect’s emails or other communications sent over the web.

Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the 26-year-old law “anachronistic,” noting that Americans “face even greater threats to their digital privacy, as we witness the explosion of new technologies and the expansion of the government's surveillance powers,” reports Fox News.

The privacy provision states that officials must have a search warrant to gain access to communications over 180 days old, notes The Los Angeles Times.

“After decades of the erosion of Americans’ privacy rights on many fronts, we finally have a rare opportunity for progress on privacy protection,” Leahy, who introduced the bill two years ago, said Thursday.

The measure is considered a major victory for privacy advocates, who were curious about government access to our emails, especially after the David Petraeus sex scandal went public. The FBI was able to find thousands of emails between him and his biographer Paula Broadwell that showed evidence of an extramarital affair.

According to WebProNews, Leahy hopes that the bill will go before the House and Senate next year. He plans to talk with the House next year to make sure that it gets passed.

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