The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) has approved legislation that would update the 27-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) with new protections for US citizens.
The bill would require government agencies to obtain a warrant before accessing information held in electronic communications such as email.
SJC members, chairman Patrick Leahy and senator Michael Lee, said the update was necessary to drag the laws into the internet age.
"When I led the effort to write ECPA 27 years ago, email was a novelty," said Leahy. "Three decades later, we must update this law, so that the law protects our privacy rights and keeps pace with innovation and the challenging mission of law enforcement. I look forward to the Senate now considering this important legislation."
Under current law, government agencies do not need a warrant for dormant electronic communications held on servers for longer than 180 days. The SJC's amendments would change that by requiring a court ordered warrant for any communication no matter its age.
The amendments would cover electronic communications ranging the spectrum from cloud-based documents, social networking data, and email messages.
Amendments were brought forward in a bi-partisan effort from both political parties. The ECPA's original author, Leahy, was one of the main drivers to bring amendments forward.
Amending the bill has seen support from the likes of advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The group brought the ECPA to the public's attention earlier this month when it condemned the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for snooping in email accounts without a court order.
A similar amendment act was introduced in the House of Representatives last year. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren introduced a bill which would have required similar warrant procedures in September.
Congresswoman Lofgren's bill failed to gain traction in the House and was dismissed back to the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee late last year.
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