September featured several developments in the ongoing debate over the limits on the government’s ability to access personal electronic communications.
- On September 9, 2014, a group of technology companies and advocacy groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging them to advance S. 607 and H.R. 1852, legislation that would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require that the government obtain a warrant to access the contents of electronic communications held by third-party service providers. The bills are opposed by executive agencies that have expressed concern about their ability to conduct investigations without the ability to obtain the content of documents and communications from internet service providers.1 The letter called for certainty regarding the standards for government access to data stored online to maintain consumer trust in cloud computing services, and opposed a carve-out from the warrant requirement for regulatory agencies.
- On September 16, 2014, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (“LEADS” Act). The bill would require the government to obtain a search warrant to access the contents of electronic communications sent or received by U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, or companies incorporated in the United States that are stored on servers located in another country. A warrant would be modified or vacated if a court determined that the warrant would require the service provider to violate the laws of another country. The bill follows a decision by a magistrate judge of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York who refused to quash a warrant issued under the Stored Communications Act that required a software company to produce communications stored on a server located in Ireland.