Texas First State to Require Warrants for Email Surveillance

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Texas has become the first state in the nation to mandate that police obtain a warrant before prying into someone’s email.

 

The new law (HB 2268) applies only to state and local law enforcement. Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (pdf) (ECPA), passed in 1986, federal law enforcement agencies are only required to get a warrant to access recent emails before they are opened by the recipient.

 

No such provision in federal law prevents the Federal Bureau of Investigation from reading emails once they have been opened or have remained unopened for 180 days.

 

The Texas initiative, signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, requires Texas law enforcement officials to get a court warrant to gain access to emails, no matter how old they are. The bill was approved without opposition in both houses of the Texas state legislature.

 

There are currently efforts underway in the U.S. Congress to modernize ECPA, as well as to introduce new legislation (pdf), that will protect the privacy of email communications.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman

 

To Learn More:

Texas Becomes First State to Require Warrant for E-mail Snooping (by Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica)

Texas Email Privacy Bill Signed Into Law (by Bonnie Barron, Courthouse News Service)

Bill HB 2268 (Texas Legislature Online)

It’s Beyond Ridiculous That Email (But Not Mail) Has Been Left Out of Privacy Laws (by Kevin Yoder, Tom Graves and Jared Polis, Wired)

NSA and FBI Secretly Mining Data from Internet Service Providers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)       

FBI Shrugs Off Law Requiring Email Warrants (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Congress, at Last Minute, Drops Requirement to Obtain Warrant to Monitor Email (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 

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