ICPA: Momentum to modernize outdated data law builds in Congress

 |   Brad Smith - President

Today marks another important step in the building momentum for legislation to clarify how U.S. warrants for digital information apply domestically and abroad.

The International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) has now been introduced in the U.S. House by Representatives Doug Collins (R-Georgia), Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), Darrell Issa (R-California) and Suzan DelBene (D-Washington). ICPA was introduced in the Senate this past July by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada).

On both sides of the aisle and across various industries there is agreement on the need for a durable and modern legal framework to inform how governments access data across borders. We, too, believe that ICPA provides a legislative path to ensure law enforcement can access evidence in a timely manner while still protecting people’s rights.

There’s an urgent need for this legislation since the law in this area has not been updated in 31 years, and it’s now ill-suited to address modern electronic data storage. Courts have struggled to apply these outdated statutes to modern data storage scenarios and have called on Congress to update the law to provide clear legal guidelines for both law enforcement and the companies that host data. ICPA answers that call by providing reasonable mechanisms for cross-border data access, including a rigorous and consistent legal process for access to the email of Americans and notification of foreign countries where required under international law.  Without the important clarifications that would be provided by ICPA, technology companies, law enforcement and the courts will be forced to continue reaching their own interpretations of an existing law that never contemplated, and was not designed for, modern electronic data storage practices here and abroad.

ICPA also builds on the progress of the LEADS Act, which earned over 135 bipartisan cosponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives in the last session of Congress, and the previous version of ICPA introduced last year. The new bill has been updated to address concerns of both industry and law enforcement.

There is a now a clear legislative path in both chambers to modernize digital data laws. We look forward to working with members to pass this important legislation and encourage Congress to act on this effort. We need Congress, and not just the courts, to determine how best to modernize the law.

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