Senate Committee Passes ECPA Reform Bill

Published: Apr. 25, 2013

Updated: Oct. 05, 2020

Senate Committee Passes ECPA Reform Bill

Today marks an important victory for ECPA reform supporters. This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the Leahy-Lee ECPA reform bill, which will update ECPA to now require a warrant to obtain any stored electronic communications and other private content, regardless of age or whether the communication is read or unread. Previously, ECPA allowed access to stored communications without a warrant if they had either been marked “read” or “opened,” or if they were more than 180 days old. Given the extent to which electronic communication is now stored online, these rules should no longer apply.  Senators Leahy and Lee, as well as many cloud-based companies have been pushing for a change to better protect digital privacy rights.


While the bill still has a long journey ahead, today we can celebrate this victory as it moves one step closer to passage.  Our own Marc Zwillinger played a key role in this effort.  He was a member of a small group of ECPA lawyers who helped put together the ECPA reform proposal that formed the basis for the Digital Due Process effort.

As for the road ahead, there are still hurdles to overcome in the full Senate and in the House.  Among these hurdles are various proposals from opponents that could weaken the bill, including the SEC’s request for Congress to create a way for regulatory agencies to get access to information directly from ISPs under a new probable-cause light standard for civil cases.  We will continue to watch developments with this legislation and update you as the bill moves along.