WASHINGTON, D.C. ñ This week, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), along with Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA), introduced the bipartisan Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act (H.R. 983) to modernize the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). This bill protects and strengthens the privacy of Internet users from unwanted and intrusive government surveillance.

Most people donít realize that their everyday activities on the Internet involve cloud computing and location-based services. Although technology has improved, our laws have not, weakening protections from government access to user-data stored from emails or social networking messages in the ìcloud.î This legislation would set clear, legal standards for government agencies to abide by before accessing usersí electronic information. Just because your email is stored in the ìcloudî and not on your computer hard-drive shouldnít mean that a different legal standard applies. An individualís property must be protected regardless of how it is technologically stored.

" Technology may change, but the Constitution does not. Whether an individualís property is physical or digital, it must be protected from snooping government eyes, as required under the Fourth Amendment. It's time for Washington to modernize this outdated legislation and protect individual privacy,î said Rep. Poe.

The Online Communications and Geolocation Protection Act would apply Constitutional privacy guarantees under the Fourth Amendment to an individual's digital communications and location data while minimizing the impact on law enforcement investigations. The bill would:

  • Require the government to obtain a warrant to access to wire or electronic communications content;
  • Require the government to obtain a warrant to intercept or force service providers to disclose geolocation data;
  • Preserve exceptions for emergency situations, foreign intelligence surveillance, individual consent, public information, and emergency assistance;
  • Prohibit service providers from disclosing a user's geolocation information to the government in the absence of a warrant or exception;
  • Prohibit the use of unlawfully obtained geolocation information as evidence;
  • Provide for administrative discipline and a civil cause of action if geolocation information is unlawfully intercepted or disclosed.