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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee, On the 27th Anniversary of the Enactment Of The Electronic Communications Privacy Act


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The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), one of the Nation's premiere digital privacy laws, was enacted 27 years ago on October 21st. I join the many privacy advocates, technology organizations, legal scholars and other Americans who celebrate this milestone and all that ECPA has come to symbolize about the importance of safeguarding our privacy rights in cyberspace.

When I introduced ECPA with former Republican Senator Charles Mathias in 1986, I said that "the privacy protections in ECPA are designed to protect legitimate law enforcement needs while minimizing intrusions on the privacy of system users as well as the business needs of electronic communications system providers." During the last three decades, ECPA has become the premier law for protecting Americans from unauthorized Government intrusions into their private electronic communications.

When Congress enacted ECPA, email was a novelty and no one imagined how prevalent it would become in our daily communication let alone how long it might be stored. But after almost three decades, new technologies ? such as the Internet, social networking sites and cloud computing ? have changed how Americans use and store email. Storing documents and other information electronically has become much less expensive and mobile technologies permit users to access stored documents wherever and whenever they choose. As a result, the digital privacy protections put in place 27 years ago have not kept pace with new technologies.

That is why Congress must revitalize the digital privacy protections that were enacted in ECPA. That is also why I am working in a bipartisan manner to update this law to reflect the realities of our time.

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