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House unanimously passes bill requiring a warrant for email

The bill closes a loophole in a 30-year-old law that allowed law enforcement to subpoena companies for old customer emails.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 419-0 to approve the Email Privacy Act, an update to a 30-year-old law privacy advocates say is long overdue.

The bill essentially fills a loophole in the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act that allows law enforcement to subpoena companies for customer emails, rather than get a warrant, if those emails are more than 180 days old. It's not used by most agencies today. In fact, FBI Director Comey recently testified that his agency seeks warrants for all email.

At the time the law was approved, email wasn't prevalent and no one considered the long-term storage of email that companies offer now. During floor debate, House members reportedly reflected on the year 1986, when "Top Gun" was new and Cabbage Patch Kids were flying off the shelves.

The digital-privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation applauded the House, noting that it's been pushing for an update to the law for more than six years.

The bill is expected to fly through the Senate as well.

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