The US House of Representatives voted unanimously [bill history] Wednesday to pass the Email Privacy Act” [HR 699, PDF]. The purpose of the bill is to protect the e-mail correspondence of American citizens, as under the current Electronic Communications Privacy Act, passed in 1986, local and federal police agencies have the ability to read e-mails at will that are at least six months old. The amendment has been part of an attempt to move privacy legislation into the 21st Century and to update electronic information laws to reflect current usage and technology. The bill, introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) in 2015, must be sent to the Senate and pass other legislative hurdles before it becomes law. HR 699 has been supported by those with diverse backgrounds and political ideologies who have come together to reform expansive governmental surveillance power.
HR 699 was passed with the background of an ongoing intelligence scandal related to the revelations surrounding the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder], which have sparked worldwide debate and concern over citizens’ privacy. Last year, current and former US officials released [JURIST report] a report stating that less than 30 percent of all Americans’ phone records are being collected due to the inability to keep up with the increased use of cellular phones