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Published: Thursday, 11/29/2012

Senate panel approves bill requiring police to get a warrant before searching emails

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation that would require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge before they can review a person's emails or other electronic communications.

The bill moves to the full Senate for its next vote. It makes it slightly more difficult for the government to access the content of a consumer's emails and private files from Google, Yahoo and other Internet providers. Under the current law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, a warrant is needed only for emails less than 6 months old.

The committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, called the existing law “anachronistic.” He said that Americans “face even greater threats to their digital privacy, as we witness the explosion of new technologies and the expansion of the government's surveillance powers.”

The Justice Department has resisted the changes over concerns that investigations could take longer due to the new requirement.



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