02 December 2015

Law enforcement digs in against email subpoena legislation

Law enforcement officials and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) remain concerned about an email privacy bill intended to update a 30-year old security law.

Their position has helped to prevent the bill from moving out of committee, despite the presence of supermajority support in the House for last two congresses.

Use of subpoena

The House Judiciary Committee yesterday heard testimony from the SEC, which represents US attorneys and the FBI. They highlighted their reservations in prepared statements, which can be viewed here. Advocates for the bill were also there, including Google, the Centre for Democracy and Technology and consulting firm Red Branch.

The legislation would close a loophole in the 1986 Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA). The act allows the government to use a subpoena, in lieu of a warrant, to force telecommunications providers and other data service firms to hand over customer’s communications if such materials are more than 180 days old.

Stronger emergency exceptions

Law enforcement wants a stronger emergency exception, while civil agencies, unable to obtain criminal warrants, want their own carve out. The hearings will continue until the New Year, as Washington lawmakers gear up for a highly combative final legislative push before the start of Barack Obama’s final year in office. Source: The Hill