OVERNIGHT TECH: Norquist and ACLU push for email privacy

by Brendan Sasso, The Hill.com  |  published on November 27, 2012

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and Laura Murphy, head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office, penned a joint op-ed on The Hill’s Congress Blog on Monday calling for better legal protections for email privacy.

They acknowledged that while they disagree on many issues, they both believe that Congress should approve legislation from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up Leahy’s bill on Thursday.
Under current law, police only need an administrative subpoena, issued without a judge’s approval, to read emails that have been opened or that are more than 180 days old. Police simply swear an email is relevant to an investigation, and then obtain a subpoena to force an Internet company to turn it over.

Leahy’s revision would require police to obtain warrants to read private emails, regardless of how old they are or whether they were opened.

“Today, if the police want to come into your house and take your personal letters, they need a warrant. If they want to read those same letters saved on Google or Yahoo they don’t. The Fourth Amendment has eroded online,” Norquist and Murphy wrote.

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