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Most Popular Bill Yet to Pass? Polis’ Email Privacy Act

With 300 co-sponsors, Legislation to Strengthen Online Privacy Still Awaits Action

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Washington, October 6, 2015 | comments
Americans have demanded greater privacy protections for their online communications and the majority of Congress agrees - overwhelmingly. The Email Privacy Act, introduced in February by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Kevin Yoder (R-KS) has now reached 300 co-sponsors, making it the most supported bill in the House of Representatives that has not gotten a floor vote. The bill would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to ensure Americans’ online communications are protected from unwarranted government intrusion.

“For too long now Americans’ electronic communications have been subject to invasive and unwarranted searches based on laws written for the Apple 2, not the iPhone 6,” Rep. Polis said. “Today, 300members of the House of Representatives – an overwhelming majority –are standing up to say that the government has no more business reading your personal email than it does reading your physical mail. The Email Privacy Act is an important bill that deserves a vote.”

“When ECPA was written, the internet as we understand it did not exist,” Rep. Yoder said. “Only 340,000 Americans even subscribed to cell phone service. Mark Zuckerberg was only two years old. But as our society and technology has evolved, our digital privacy laws remain stuck in 1986. With our bill now receiving the distinction of the most-cosponsored bill yet to be considered by the House, the time has arrived to fix that.”

“Being the most supported bill in Congress without moving to the floor is a dubious honor, but it shows just how incredibly broad the support is for strong privacy protections for our online communications,” Chris Calabrese of the Center for Democracy and Technology and a member of Digital 4th, said. Digital 4th is a bipartisan coalition dedicated to bringing Fourth Amendment protections into the 21st century. “Americans deserve warrant protections for their emails and Congress has clearly heard this message from their constituents loud and clear. The Email Privacy Act represents a vital step forward in ensuring our privacy is respected online. Let’s move this bill forward for a vote by the full House now.”

“When ECPA was written in 1986, most Americans did not have email accounts,” Katie McAuliffe of Americans for Tax Reform and a member of Digital 4th, said. “It was impossible for Congress to foresee the type of technological advancements nearly three decades later. As a result, our emails, photos, documents and other items stored in the cloud are in jeopardy of government intrusion. Privacy rights should not stop online. The Email Privacy Act is an important bill to protect the privacy of all Americans and should be voted on without delay.”

ECPA sets the standard for government access to Americans’ online communications and as currently written opens the door to unwarranted government intrusion. Reforming the law would ensure Americans’ 4th amendment rights are strengthened on the Internet and protects citizens from government snooping.

Polis, the founder of several startups and tech companies, including and Techstars, has been a leader on technology and privacy issues since joining Congress in 2009.

He’s been a leading co-sponsor of many bills aimed at defending the open Internet and protecting individuals’ right to privacy, including: the Student Digital Privacy and Parental Rights Act, the most significant federal attempt to protect student data in decades, the SPEAK FREE Act, which would enhance free speech protection for consumers on the Internet, and the Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act, which would reform outdated provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Earlier this year, Polis successfully passed an amendment through the House of Representatives prohibiting unwarranted bulk surveillance by the Department of Justice.

In addition to his legislative track-record, he’s been at the forefront of educating lawmakers about open source technology, digital currencies, and the challenges facing start-ups across the nation.
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