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New bill seeks to stop US government from accessing citizens' email, personal info

Washington, Thu, 22 Nov 2012 ANI

Washington, Nov. 22 (ANI): A new US bill will soon be able to stop government from accessing email and other personal data of its citizens if it comes into force.

If the new bill currently making its way through Congress becomes law, federal law enforcement agencies will soon have their hands tied when it comes to accessing email and other personal data of US citizens.

Laws governing the privacy of emails were drafted in mid-1980s, long before AOL and Gmail, Fox News reports.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy has drafted a substitute bill for the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was originally written in 1986 long before things like electronic archiving and cloud storage, the report said.

The update, which will be under review next Thursday, modernizes rules for police seeking to obtain private email for investigative purposes, rules that had been surprisingly lax.

"Technology [today] is fundamentally different than anything thought of in the 80s," Alan Butler, an advisory counsel member with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said.

"The standard amount of storage was much smaller when the bill was originally written," he told

"The statute has not undergone a significant revision since it was enacted in 1986 -- light years ago in Internet time," he added.

Butler said that the update is meant to do away with the "180-day rule," which said that law-enforcement agencies need a mere administrative subpoena and not a court-approved warrant to access email messages older than six months, the report said.

According to the report, currently, police agencies can simply say that they think a particular email is relevant to an investigation and force an Internet company to hand it over, without a judge's OK.

More recent emails would require a warrant, and Leahy's bill would make a court-approved warrant mandatory to obtain and view private emails from any time frame, it added. (ANI)

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