Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Thursday that by the end of the year he will mark up legislation to update a 25-year old law dealing with law enforcement access to electronic communications.
Leahy's legislation would overhaul the 1986 law he authored known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. It would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to get access to all forms of electronic communications and geo-location data.
"When I led the effort to write the ECPA 25 years ago, no one could have contemplated the many emerging threats to our digital privacy," Leahy said in a statement one day before the 25th anniversary of ECPA's enactment.
Tech companies, privacy advocates and other supporters of updating ECPA say the law is out of date and provides different legal standards for different types of electronic communications such as e-mail and stored electronic data. They argue that the law's differing legal protections are hampering the growth of some new technologies such as cloud computing.
"As technology has advanced, the checks and balances limiting government surveillance have not kept pace; the changes proposed by Senator Leahy's bill will provide important protections for today's online communications," Center for Democracy and Technology Senior Counsel Gregory Nojeim said in a statement. His group helped launch a coalition last year pushing Congress to update ECPA.