Dear Neighbor,

Do you want the federal government to have complete access to your personal phone? I don’t either. The privacy vs. security debate is not new, but it has captured national attention in recent weeks with new developments in encryption and the Apple vs. FBI battle.


In the battle between the FBI and Apple, Apple declined the FBI’s request for a back door “key” to access the iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino terrorists. The Federal government wants to do two things. 

  1. A backdoor key to all IPhones
  2. Force private companies to give them access to your phones

The Fourth Amendment is clear:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It does not have an exception that says: “except in the digital world” or “except in national security instances”. Our data – no matter whether it is physical or data - should only be able to be obtained by the government subject to a lawful warrant. 

It is imperative that Congress do everything in its power to protect our constitutional rights and insure that the 4th amendment is properly applied in the digital age. Before we mandate that the government must have a “key” for all encrypted data-- we must step back and consider what that means for privacy. That’s why I held a Summit on Encryption on this very topic last week at the Rice University Baker Institute for Public Policy. We heard from technologists, privacy advocates and law enforcement to debate these issues. A webcast of the summit is available HERE.

I’ve long argued that privacy must not be sacrificed on the altar of temporary safety and false security. Last year, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and I introduced H.R. 2233, The End Warrantless Surveillance of Americans Act, which would prohibit the government from either mandating (or requesting) that US companies insert a backdoor in their products. 

Hosting the Encryption Summit at Rice University

This week the House Of Representatives passed H.R. 699, the Email Privacy Act. Did you know that under current law, the federal government can access, without a warrant, any electronic communications that have been stored for at least 6 months in the cloud? That’s wrong and unconstitutional. H.R. 699 helps address this issue by requiring a warrant for content. 

The government simply should not be able to snoop and spy on our movements through smart phones and other devices without a warrant. After all, the government can’t tap our phones, read our mail, or enter our homes without a warrant. Why should the law treat digital data stored in the cloud any differently than anything in our homes?  It shouldn’t.   

Click here to share your thoughts with me.


Member of Congress