Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

WASHINGTON, April 23 -

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Mr. Speaker,

Last week Americans across the fruited plain filed their taxes with everyoneís favorite government agency---the IRS, or the Internal Revenue Service as itís called. But IRSí job is just beginning; now they will put their police hats on.

Mr. Speaker, I recently learned something disturbing that most Americans are probably not aware of. Say, the IRS decides to snoop around and secretly investigate a citizen named Joe and his taxes. Right now, the government can go to Joeís email provider, demand his email records and check on his finances that are stored in the cloud, all without his knowledge or consent! Government agencies have the authority to snoop through private emails, photos, as long as they are 180 days old, NO WARRANT REQUIRED. How is this possible? Well, itís called the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

ECPA was passed back in 1986, the stone age of technology, when most Americans didnít even own a home computer much less use email or store things in a ìcloudî. Today we have tweets, g-chats, texts,  instagrams, emails, and yes, the cloud. The world of 1986 is gone, and it has been replaced by a world with free, instant, unlimited email storage, high-speed broadband and cloud computing. Americans keep many of their most personal possessions online indefinitely: family photographs, schoolwork, sensitive communications, financial records, business plans, personal calendars and even weekend shopping lists. In other words, Big Government can force a private company to turn over private information, without consent and without a warrant and without a personís knowledge. This circumvents the Fourth Amendmentís prohibition against ìunreasonable searches and seizuresî of Americansí ìpersons, houses, papers and personal effects.î Government should get a warrant if probable cause exists to believe a crime is being committed.

Technology may have changed, but the fourth amendment still applies. The government canít tap our phones without a search warrant. It canít read our mail without a warrant or enter our homes or search our records that we keep in file cabinets. If a person stores information in a safety deposit box, the government must get  warrant to seize it. But ECPA authorizes the government to read emails and social media messages or any property stored in the ìcloudî. Without a warrant and without evidence that someone is engaged in criminal behavior. 

Mr. Speaker, that is an invasion of privacy and an affront to the liberty of every American. Why should the law treat digital data stored in the ìcloudî any differently than papers stored in a file cabinet in our home or property stored in a deposit box? It is no different.

The law must be updated to protect every citizenís right to privacy from Big Government. Governmentís unrestricted authority to demand private information stored in the cloud ìwill kill cloud computingî by destroying confidence in U.S.-based services and driving businesses to other countries, which have stronger privacy protections. Thatís what the CEO of Data Foundry, a Texas-based data services prov