Congress has been in a legal battle with American technology groups over privacy protection laws ever since Edward Snowden’s big government surveillance leaks back in 2013. While the two have been fighting for this for even longer, the Snowden leaks finally gave the tech companies enough public support to force Congress to be more open to giving email and other documents stored in the cloud the same privacy protections that physical records are given.
This may finally be the year that the U.S. Congress gives email and other documents stored in the cloud for several months the same privacy protections from police searches as newer files or paper records stored in a file cabinet, say backers of electronic privacy reform. A coalition of tech companies, digital rights advocates and other groups on Wednesday renewed their call for Congress to change a 29-year-old electronic privacy law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act [ECPA]. Members of the Digital Fourth coalition have been pushing since 2010 for Congress to change ECPA by requiring law enforcement agencies to get a judge-approved warrant before getting access to a suspect’s digital files stored with a third party for more than 180 days. Law enforcement agencies need a warrant to get their hands on paper files stored in a suspect’s home or office and electronic files stored for less than 180 days. But under ECPA, police agencies need only a subpoena, not reviewed by a judge, to demand files stored in the cloud for longer than 180 days.