VIDEO: Rep. Yoder’s Remarks on House Passage of Email Privacy Act
Washington, D.C. – This evening, Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS) spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives urging his colleagues to vote in favor of his legislation modernizing federal law with respect to Americans’ digital privacy rights. Shortly after his remarks concluded, the House unanimously passed H.R. 387 – the Email Privacy Act – by voice vote.
You can view a video of Rep. Yoder's remarks by clicking here. Also included are Rep. Yoder’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for this opportunity for an important debate on legislation that has been a long time in the coming.
“I’d like to thank the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Goodlatte, and the Ranking Member, Mr. Conyers, for their hard work and leadership in helping shepherd this critical piece of legislation to the floor.
“I rise today to support these long-overdue ideas in this bipartisan legislation that will bring our digital privacy laws into the 21st Century –the Email Privacy Act.
“Mr. Speaker, the year was 1986. I was ten years old, hoping to get a new Nintendo game console for Christmas so I could play Super Mario Brothers.
“You could buy a ticket to see Top Gun for $2.75.
“In the tech world, 1986 marked the debut of the first laptop computer. It was 12 pounds!
“A mobile phone was the size of a small pet.
“Mr. Speaker, it was also the year in which the Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
“At the time, there were only 10 million e-mail users worldwide.
“Now, 232 million Americans send an email once per month.
“The first text message wouldn’t be sent for another six years – now Americans send more than one billion texts each year.
“Mr. Speaker, the times and technology have changed but the laws have not kept pace.
“Federal laws regarding how we treat and protect the privacy of digital communication have been unchanged since 1986, and because of it, our digital content is not afforded the same Fourth Amendment protections as paper documents on our desks at home.
“Now, the Fourth Amendment protects the ‘right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.’
“Yet, when it comes to what’s on American’s cell phones, or home computers, our laws allows federal agencies like the IRS or SEC or the law enforcement, to kick down the virtual doors and search innocent American’s private communication and data storage without a warrant, without probable cause or any type of due process.
“Many Americans take great precaution to store their emails, on services like Dropbox or in the ‘Cloud,’ yet our federal law perversely treats that data storage as if its abandoned by its owner, and therefore loses constitutional protection.
“Well, in 1986, lawmakers believed within reason that individuals and families wouldn’t store data online. They wouldn’t leave their email stored online. They believed that they might have their own servers.
“Therefore, if an individual was leaving an email on a third-party server it was akin to that person leaving their paper mail in a garbage can at the end of their driveway.
“Thus, that individual had no reasonable expectation of privacy in regards to that email under the Fourth Amendment.
“But as we all know, virtually everyone now stores millions of emails and other data on third party servers like Gmail.
“Those emails contain pictures and videos of our kids, our business transactions – our most sensitive information that the government shouldn’t have access to without a warrant, without due process as required by the Constitution.
“Establishing these privacy protections are critical for both ensuring that Americans’ rights are protected, but also ensuring that all cloud computing providers are covered by the same warrant for content requirements.
“In addition to updating our constitutional rights, these privacy protections create business certainty. They ensure consumers will remain happy to continue to using cloud storage services.
“Mr. Speaker, fundamentally, these changes in my bill codify the Sixth Circuit’s decision in U.S. v. Warshak, which held that email content is protected by the Fourth Amendment. A decision which, while important, needs to be enshrined in law as it only currently applies in the sixth circuit. It must be applied nationwide.
“Mr. Speaker, today we can cast a unifying vote in these divided times. We can work to dispel the myth that Congress doesn't work together. We can send a strong message to the American people that their privacy matters.
“I urge passage and I yield back.”