WASHINGTON (April 29, 2014) — The R Street Institute, along with a wide-ranging group of non-profit and industry groups, called on President Obama yesterday to support reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Under the current statute, which dates to 1986, e-mail, documents stored in the cloud and other private communications like photos and text messages do not receive the protection of the requirement of a search warrant approved by a judge.

Bipartisan legislation is currently moving through both houses of Congress that would amend the law to provide these items in the cloud with the same protections as required for U.S. mail, searches of a home or electronic communications that are not stored with third parties like Google or Yahoo.

“Reforming ECPA would be a significant first step toward adapting the American legal system, which from its founding has respected the rights of the accused, to the way citizens store private information in today’s cloud based applications,” said Steven Titch, associate fellow with the R Street Institute. “The legislation’s proposed revisions are logical extensions to make it relevant for 21st century computing applications.

The legislation, S. 607 in the Senate and H.R. 1852 in the House, would require law enforcement agencies to show probable cause and obtain a warrant before searching personal data stored in the cloud. The legislation has over 200 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and it’s been over 130 days since an offcial White House petition asking the president to support ECPA reform reached 100,000 signatures, still without an official response. Agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service are opposed to reforming ECPA unless the legislation includes a carevout to secure their own warrantless searching powers.

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