It's no longer a surprise that the government is reading your emails. What you might not know is that it can readily read most of your email without a warrant.
Any email or social networking message you've opened that's more than six months old can also be accessed by every law enforcement official in government -- without needing to get a warrant. That's because a key provision in a law almost three decades' old allows this kind of access with a mere subpoena, which doesn't require a judge.
That includes every email or message you opened last year, and earlier. (Anything under that six-month period still requires a warrant, however.)
It's therefore no surprise that in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks, hundreds of lawmakers are calling for change. But there's a problem. The committee that would get the bill, dubbed the Email Privacy Act, to the House floor for a vote hasn't yet picked it up.
The warrantless email search reform bill was originally introduced in 2013, but stalled in a bureaucratic session despite passing the various congressional committees. The proposed law aims to fix the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which is still in effect despite falling behind the curve of the digital age, and has the support from privacy groups and major technology companies alike.
Its popularity has rocketed. The House version of the bill, introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS, 3rd), has more than 280 co-sponsors, more than half the entire House of Representatives. That includes big names like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY, 4th), whose election was won on supporting privacy matters. It also includes Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI, 5th), who was a key figure in bringing the Freedom Act to a final vote.
Sensenbrenner chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security where the bill was referred to. But, as reported by The National Journal, the bill remains on the parent House Judiciary Committee chairman's "to-do list" for the time being.
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA, 6th) reportedly told Yoder, speaking to the publication, that he may "have some potential modifications to the end product." A committee spokesperson also told the publication that ECPA reform is a "top priority" and expects some movement soon. Continue reading