In rare unanimous move, House passes bill to protect email and cloud privacy

The Email Privacy Act would require police to get warrants to search data stored in the cloud

The U.S. House of Representatives, in a rare unanimous vote, has approved a bill to strengthen privacy protections for email and other data stored in the cloud.

The Email Privacy Act would require law enforcement agencies to get court-ordered warrants to search email and other data stored with third parties for longer than six months. The House on Wednesday voted 419-0 to pass the legislation and send it to the Senate.

The bill, with 314 cosponsors in the House, would update a 30-year-old law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Some privacy advocates and tech companies have been pushing Congress to update ECPA since 2011.

A lot has changed since ECPA first passed, including user expectations of data privacy, supporters argued. Thirty years ago, few U.S. residents had email accounts, and data storage was "finite and expensive," said Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.

"In 1986, mail was sent through the U.S. Postal Service, a search engine was called a library, tweets were the sounds made by birds in the trees, and clouds were found only in the sky," he said. "It was unheard of that a commercial product would allow users to send and receive communications around the world for free and store those communications for years."

About 10 House members spoke in favor of the bill during floor debate. No one spoke against it. 

The passage of the bill is a "victory for all Americans who believe in the right to privacy," said Representative Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat and main sponsor of the bill.

Under U.S. law, police need warrants to get their hands on paper files in a suspect's home or office and on electronic files stored on his computer or in the cloud for less than 180 days. But under ECPA, police agencies need only a subpoena, not reviewed by a judge, to demand files stored in the cloud or with other third-party providers for longer than 180 days.

The American Library Association and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) both praised the house for passing the Email Privacy Act.

"For consumers to feel safe with cloud computing, personal data stored remotely must have the same legal protection as data on their own computer," Mark MacCarthy, SIIA's senior vice president of public policy, said in a statement. The House vote "brings us one step closer to leveling the playing field for government access to data stored in the cloud."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about House of RepresentativesSoftware and Information Industry Association

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Grant Gross

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place