Proponents Hope Congress Follows Suit
Texas is proud to be a step ahead of the federal government on many issues...economic growth, jobs, and taxes are just a few. Now, the Lone Star State is on the verge of leading the way on the issue of electronic privacy. A bill awaiting Governor Rick Perry's signature would make Texas the first state in the country to require a warrant for law enforcement to seize private e-mails. HB 2268 was passed last week in both the Texas House and Senate. It goes a step beyond federal law, which only requires a subpoena for the seizure of e-mails.
Houston Internet Attorney Travis Crabtree with the firm Looper Reed & McGraw tells KTRH this bill is a long overdue call to Congress to update the federal law. "This is the (Texas) lawmakers telling Congress 'hey idiots, this is how you do it, it's a pretty simple fix,'" says Crabtree. He explains that current federal law doesn't even require a judge to approve the release of e-mails to law enforcement. "Right now they can simply go to Comcast or Yahoo or Hotmail and ask for this information without having a judge look at it and say do you really need this, and why do you need it." Another reason Crabtree thinks the law is necessary is that providers can store e-mails even long after the user has deleted them. "It's almost impossible to make (the e-mails) completely go away, and that's why there's a need for more protections from the federal legislature, unless all 50 states just follow Texas' lead."
One of the biggest proponents of the bill was the Texas Electronic Privacy Coalition, which was somewhat satisfied with the final version. The group's statement said, "Well, we didn’t get everything we wanted, but we didn’t walk away empty handed either." They were referring to a failed provision in the bill that would have applied the same standards to monitoring cell phone location data. Nevertheless, this bill would still put Texas in front of the rest of the country on the privacy issue. "It's a lesson for Washington to say this is how it's done," says Crabtree. "Make the same changes so that people's privacy is a little more protected."