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Senate Judiciary Committee passes historic privacy legislation

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed historic legislation on a bipartisan vote on Nov. 29 that would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, first passed in 1986, to create a warrant requirement, based on probable cause, when the government seeks the content of a person's electronic communications from a service provider. Under current law, the government can use a simple subpoena without judicial approval to access emails that are more than 180 days old or opened, and documents stored in "the cloud." NAA is part of the Digital Due Process coalition, which has been advocating for ECPA reform to help ensure that privacy laws match the pace of technological change and are consistent with court decisions interpreting the Fourth Amendment. NAA participated in several coalition meetings with Senate staff, arguing that a warrant requirement would provide an important buffer for newsgathering against government intrusion. It is unlikely that the bill will move forward before the end of this Congress, but the bipartisan vote puts the bill in a very good place to be taken up again next year. more

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