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Digital Privacy Reform Bill Postponed Until After Election

Voting on a proposed revision of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (the “ECPA”) was postponed by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee until after the November Elections. The proposed changes are aimed at addressing privacy concerns in this digital age as more and more people have begun storing emails and other personal documents on servers. 

The current ECPA permits the government to acquire, via an administrative subpoena, a suspect’s email or other stored content from an Internet service provider stored on a third party server for 180 days or more. The standard for obtaining the subpoena is “reasonable grounds to believe” that the information would be useful in an investigation and there is no heightened standard for obtaining such a warrant.  The proposed changes raise the standard by requiring the government to obtain a probable-cause warrant from a judge to access electronic information stored in the cloud. 

Civil liberties groups in US have been lobbying for the proposed changes to strengthen privacy protection. Various national police groups have urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to carefully weigh the consequences of the proposed changes on the ability of law enforcement officials to conduct their work efficiently and effectively.

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