ZDNet reports that multiple federal agencies can read every email or social networking message you opened in the last year, but lawmakers would like it to stop:
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.)
But this provision includes all agencies of law enforcement – even the IRS!
Perhaps it is because of Snowden’s public confirmations of similar privacy violations run amok, that Congress is at least ostensibly paying attention. Hundreds of lawmakers are calling for some type of change – to kill warrantless email searches.
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 The proposed law aims to fix the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which is still in effect despite falling behind the curve of the digital age, and has the support from privacy groups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.
The House version of the bill, introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS, 3rd), has been popular, engendering support from 280 co-sponsors (over half of the House), including Rep. Thomas Massie.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates the banks and financial institutions, cannot issue warrants but instead issues subpoenas for emails and messages older than six-months. The agency has been accused of standing in the way of meaningful legislative reform in order to keep its somewhat limited powers.
The bill would be anticipated to pass if it were up for a vote today – it is stalled as two chairman have yet to set a date. Keep track of the current version of the bill here, and contact your Representatives.
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