Search and Seizure

Senate Bill Would Require Warrants for Email



Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would require the government to get a warrant before accessing our private electronic communications, like emails and Facebook messages. The bill could now proceed to the Senate Floor for a vote.

The package that passed out of committee included an amendment championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would mandate that the government receive a probable cause warrant before accessing private electronic communications. This would close a dangerous loophole in the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which the Department of Justice has argued allows them to access private emails that are more than 180 days old without a warrant. This runs contrary to the privacy users expect in their digital communications as well as the Fourth Amendment. As the Washington Post said in an editorial yesterday, "If you left a letter on your desk for 180 days, you wouldn't imagine that the police could then swoop in and read it without your permission, or a judge's."