Facebook and many other major tech companies and consumer advocacy groups teamed up this week to urge the Senate to pass a bill that would reform online communication privacy.
The group of organizations wrote a letter to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voicing support for the Email Privacy Act that recently passed through the House of Representatives by a vote of 419-0. The bill would close a loophole in the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act that lets government agents demand emails with only a civil subpoena instead of a warrant if the email is more than 180 days old.
Of course, a bill written in 1986 that deals with the Internet badly needed an update — thus the unanimous vote. However, Facebook and the other groups that wrote the letter emphasized that the reforms in the bill do not go far enough to protect users’ privacy from the government.
“The bill passed by the House does not achieve all of the reforms we had hoped for,” the letter said. “Indeed, it removes key provisions of the proposed bill, such as the section requiring notice from the government to the customer when a warrant is served, which are necessary to protect users. However, it does impose a warrant-for-content rule with limited exceptions.”
So while you won’t know if a warrant has been served for your private online info, you can at least rest easy knowing that a warrant was served in the first place. That doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a big step forward for your security.