Salmon Introduces Bill to Protect Emails, Ensure Privacy from Government Entities

May 7, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Today, Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05) introduced H.R. 1847, a bill designed to increase protections for electronic communications, including personal emails, of U.S. citizens. Salmon’s latest bill addresses the privacy concerns raised from the recent position by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that the Fourth Amendment does not protect the privacy of personal emails because internet users do not “have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” Salmon offered the following statement regarding his bill:

Clearly there is a need to ensure the privacy of our personal emails, particularly given the recent statements by the IRS. In the ever changing world of technology, our laws need to be updated to ensure our constitutional rights are protected regardless of what mode of communication we use.  My bill requires the government to obtain a warrant or explicit written consent to read emails, text messages, or any other form of private electronic messaging. We have a duty to uphold the Constitution and the freedoms and rights it provides, and this bill is one way to achieve this responsibility. I am proud to sponsor the House version of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2013 because it will properly update the current version of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and affirm the fundamental right of privacy for every American citizen.”

The recently reported policy of the IRS goes further to state that no warrant is required for emails opened or stored by an Internet storage provider for more than 180 days. The basis for these claims is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, which allows agents to access any emails that have been opened or emails that are older than six months. 

This bill takes the necessary steps to ensure the privacy and protection of American citizens, and secure robust congressional and judicial oversight of the executive branch by enacting the following:  

  • Elimination of 180-Day Rule—Under previous code, entities did not need a warrant to access some forms of electronic communications. This bill strikes that rule and requires a warrant to access any and all electronic communication held in electronic storage or otherwise stored, held, or maintained by a provider of electronic communication service or remote computing service.
  • Requires a Search Warrant— Requires that the government provide the customer with a copy of the warrant and related information within 10 days for law enforcement agency and within 3 days for any other government entity
  • Requires Disclosure of Customer Records—Outlines details surrounding how and what information may be accessed by the government
  • Requires a Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report—Includes analysis and evaluation of the disclosure of customer communications and records including the frequency of use and evaluation of the effects of the bill

Representative Salmon’s bill can be viewed here.

The Senate companion, S. 607, was introduced earlier this year by Senator Lee (R-UT) and Chairman Leahy (D-VT).

Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-05) serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. He is also a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
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