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Privacy Tracker | Texas Passes E-mail Privacy Law Related reading: Notes from the IAPP Publications Editor, Dec. 14, 2018

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Don’t mess with Texas—at least not its e-mail.

On Friday, Gov. Rick Perry signed what has been called the toughest e-mail privacy bill in the country into law, meaning state law enforcement will need to get a warrant in order to search e-mail—no matter how old it is. The bill unanimously passed both houses of the state legislature before reaching Perry’s desk, Courthouse News reports.

HB 2268 surpasses the privacy protections under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which allows warrantless searches of e-mails before they’ve been opened by the recipient and after they’ve been sitting unopened in an inbox for 180 days.

Consensus is growing between government, industry and privacy advocates that this time-frame distinction is outdated and ECPA should be updated to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching all e-mails, and in April, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the ECPA Amendments Act, which would require just that.

While this won’t stop federal law enforcement from gaining warrantless access, is Texas setting the precedent for ECPA reform here?

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock) says that the legislation "allows Texas to join other states in making sure law enforcement agencies are able to obtain critical evidence when criminals are using the Internet to commit crimes."

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