May 29, 2013
Despite having lost his bid for the presidency, Texas Governor Rick Perry now finds himself again in a position of (potential) national leadership. On the way to his desk is a bill that would put Texas far ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to protecting consumers’ electronic privacy.
Unless Perry takes action to veto it, the legislation would fix a legal loophole that currently lets law enforcement seize opened emails (or unopened emails older than 180 days) with little more than an administrative subpoena. Under the new law, which passed the state House on Monday and the state Senate on Tuesday, investigators would need to get a search warrant before asking businesses to hand over consumer records.
The bill mirrors reforms that have been floated in the U.S. Senate, and as Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar first noted, letting it become law could put pressure on Congress to fast-track updates to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a 27-year-old statute. ECPA reforms recently made their way out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and are waiting for a floor vote. The Department of Justice has also given its approval to the rule change on emails.