Barletta Votes to Protect Email Privacy

Apr 27, 2016
Press Release
Bill Treats Electronic Mail the Same as Regular Mail, Warrant Required

WASHINGTON – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today voted in favor of legislation that protects email privacy the same way the government is prevented from going through citizens’ regular mail without a search warrant.  Barletta co-sponsored H.R. 699, the Email Privacy Act, which eliminates the provision in current federal law which allows the government to search through private emails if they are stored on third-party servers for more than 180 days.  The bill passed the House by unanimous bipartisan vote of 418-to-0 and now heads to the Senate for its consideration.

“We haven’t updated federal email privacy laws since 1986, the same year the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, which tells you how long ago that was,” Barletta said.  “Government will need a warrant to look at private emails – otherwise, the IRS could be reading your old emails right now without your knowledge.  This bill is a victory for privacy and 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable searches, and I am proud to be a cosponsor.”

Under current federal law, if emails are stored on a third-party server, such as Gmail or Yahoo, they are considered abandoned after 180 days, clearing the way for the government to sift through them at will by simply issuing a subpoena.  The legislation, authored by Rep. Kevin Yoder (KS-3), would require a warrant issued by a court for the government to examine emails, not matter how old they are.  Additionally, the government must notify citizens if their emails become the subject to a warrant.  When the original law was drafted, Congress envisioned that most Americans would have their own email servers in their homes and did not contemplate such widespread use of third-party providers.

“We now know that, unless you are Hillary Clinton, it is unlikely that you have your own email server at home,” Barletta said.  “Millions of Americans use an outside provider for their personal emails, which means that current law is simply behind the times.  For privacy purposes, we will finally treat email the same as snail mail.”