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Congress, it's time to vote on email privacy
by Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Suzan DelBene
In 1986 the Internet was just an experimental form of communication between a handful of academics, and yet more than 30 years later, Americans’ online email privacy laws remain stuck in the pre-internet era. At this moment, law enforcement can access American citizens’ emails without a warrant, even though the exact same messages in paper form would require a warrant. Law-abiding Americans have a right to be frustrated and upset. While email has developed into one of the most common forms of communication, the laws that prevent government intrusion remain outdated for the 21st century.
It is critical that as the bill finally moves through the legislative process, it is protected from provisions that would contradict the reform effort. Some suggest - broadly and hypothetically - that the Email Privacy Act would hinder federal agencies’ ability to conduct investigations. Yet, this point undermines the exact intent of the Email Privacy Act, and the reason the bill has strong support from both parties.
Let’s remember that the Fourth Amendment was created to safeguard individuals from unjustified government intrusions. It’s nonsensical that our homes, cars and mailboxes are protected from unwarranted government searches, but the government can sift through our email inboxes with impunity. These are the reasons why the Email Privacy Act has such immense bipartisan support. This bill aligns with the values our nation holds dear, and it unquestionably protects Americans from government abuse and overreach in the 21st century.
Americans have demanded commonsense privacy protections for their online communications and the majority of Congress agrees overwhelmingly. It’s time to update this archaic law, and we urge Chairman Goodlatte and the House Judiciary Committee to move the Email Privacy Act forward, without substantial changes as sponsored by more than two-thirds of Congress, and more importantly, as the American people deserve.
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