TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Bill aims to protect privacy of emails

About The Tribune-Review
The Tribune-Review can be reached via e-mail or at 412-321-6460.
Contact Us | Video | Photo Reprints

Daily Photo Galleries


By The Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 7:42 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Over objections from law enforcement officials, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge before they can review a person's emails or other electronic communications.

Passed on Thursday, the bill would make it slightly more difficult for the government to access the content of a consumer's emails and private files from Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other Internet providers. Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a warrant is needed only for emails less than 6 months old.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., committee chairman and the bill's sponsor, said digital files on a computer should have the same safeguards as paper files stored in a home. Americans “face even greater threats to their digital privacy, as we witness the explosion of new technologies and the expansion of the government's surveillance powers,” Leahy said during the committee's vote.

The full Senate is in a lame-duck session and is not expected to vote on the legislation until it reconvenes in January. The GOP-led House Judiciary Committee hasn't voted on a similar bill introduced by Democrats.

The resignation of Gen. David Petraeus a few weeks ago as head of the CIA over an extramarital affair focused public attention on federal agents' access to individuals' email accounts.

Privacy advocates and civil liberties groups applauded the committee's action, saying the law is outdated in an era of cloud computing, cheaper electronic storage, social networking and wireless phones. Such advances in technology have increased dramatically the amount of stored communications in ways that no one anticipated a quarter of a century ago.

“We are very happy that the committee voted that all electronic content like emails, photos and other communications held by companies like Google and Facebook should be protected with a search warrant,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Justice Department and other law enforcement groups had resisted changes to the law. James Baker, associate deputy attorney general, urged the committee last year to consider the adverse impact on criminal and national security investigations if a warrant were the only means for law enforcement officials to obtain emails and other digital files.

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. Drug crime reclassification to help ex-cons get vote rights
  2. First date in New Jersey ends with him pilfering her TV and Yorkshire terrier
  3. Fox fires exec who used email to plan aid
  4. Automaker GM’s wait on Saturn Ion safety recall took years
  5. Ohio couple married for 70 years dies just 15 hours apart
  6. Health care law enrollee passwords at risk for Heartbleed Internet security flaw, feds warn
  7. SpaceX supply ship makes Easter cargo delivery to space station
  8. Medicaid paid $12M for Illinois dead, audit finds
  9. Recovery expert believes wreckage of missing plane located
  10. Colorado deaths stoke marijuana worries
  11. Grandmother left vengeful note in boys’ slayings, then committed suicide, police say
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.