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Republicans Increasingly Backing Email Privacy Reform

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Friday, 10 May 2013 02:40 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Republicans are becoming more involved in moves to update the country's email privacy laws, with four lawmakers introducing bills to require government investigators to obtain a warrant before accessing someone's messages.

Arizona Reps. Matt Salmon and Trent Franks are teaming up to work on reforming the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, reports Politico, while Reps. Kevin Yoder of Kansas and Georgia Rep. Tom Graves have put forward reform measures dealing with the Email Privacy Act.

The move by the lawmakers has surprised some, since efforts to strengthen privacy rights have normally been pushed by Democrats.

The GOP House bills are basically companion pieces of legislation to a bipartisan measure already approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee that was co-sponsored by Democratic Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Mike Lee of Utah.

The legislation is aimed at shoring up the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches, which some lawmakers felt was under attack recently by the IRS after the agency release guidelines that allowed access to taxpayer emails older than six months without a warrant.

Republican and conservative-leaning advocacy groups are also becoming more involved in the privacy debate. Americans for Tax Reform has been involved for some time, and took a stronger stance as a founding member of Digital 4th, a group that promotes the strengthening of communications privacy laws.

"We see this as [a] Fourth Amendment issue that should be bipartisan," said tax reform's Katie McAuliffe.

The efforts are also backed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and the panel's crime subcommittee chair Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. The two Republicans have talked about making communication privacy protections a priority this year.

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