A bill awaiting Texas Governor Rick Perry’s signature would put the Lone Star State ahead of Congress in protecting the privacy of citizens whose emails, thanks to an existing legal loophole, are currently subject to warrantless seizure.
The law, already approved by both chambers of the State Legislature, follows reforms recommended to Congress by privacy advocates with ties to technological industries. If approved by Perry, it would close a loophole that currently allows law enforcement to seize unopened emails 180 days old (or older), as well as all opened emails, simply by acquiring an administrative subpoena. Instead, investigators would be forced to obtain a search warrant before snooping through any private emails.
Congress is currently considering similar reforms to the 27-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), but has not yet approved an amended version that emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee in late April.
Still missing from the final version of the Texas law is a recommended requirement that police obtain a search warrant before tracking residents’ locations through their cellphones’ geolocation data.