H.R. 387 would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to improve privacy protections for electronic communications stored or maintained by a third-party service provider. Additionally, H.R. 387 requires the government to obtain a search warrant from a court in criminal investigations before a provider is required to disclose the content of communications, while not impeding law enforcement’s efforts to protect the public.
Presently, the government may access any emails that are more than 6 months old without a warrant. Under ECPA, law enforcement officials may access these emails with a subpoena; H.R. 699 would amend ECPA to require a warrant to obtain the content of communications from third-party service providers.
The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Feb 6, 2017.
Email Privacy Act
(Sec. 2) This bill amends the federal criminal code to revise provisions that limit an electronic communication service (ECS) or remote communication service (RCS) provider from voluntarily disclosing the contents of a wire or electronic communication that is in electronic storage.
(Sec. 3) The bill also revises the standards for the government to compel an ECS or RCS provider to disclose contents of a wire or electronic communication or noncontent records or information pertaining to a subscriber or customer.
The government must obtain a warrant to compel the disclosure of contents of a communication that is in electronic storage, or otherwise stored, held, or maintained by an ECS or RCS provider.
An ECS or RCS provider may notify a subscriber or customer of the receipt of a warrant, court order, subpoena, or request, unless the government obtains an order for delayed notification.
(Sec. 4) The bill revises the process for obtaining a delayed notification order and lengthens the maximum duration of a delayed notification order.
(Sec. 5) The bill does not preclude the government from acquiring, pursuant to other legal authorities: (1) contents of a wire or electronic communication, or (2) noncontent records or information related to a subscriber or customer.