This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

What is an Emergency Disclosure Request?

Question from Sarah, What is an Emergency Disclosure Request?

Answer from AI:

An Emergency Disclosure Request (EDR) is a tool used by law enforcement agencies to obtain certain user information from service providers without a court order in situations where there is an imminent threat to life or serious physical injury. In the United States, these requests are typically governed by the Stored Communications Act (SCA), which is part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986.

Scope of Data in Emergency Disclosure Requests

The scope of data that can be obtained through an EDR is a critical aspect to understand. Generally, EDRs can include:

  • Non-content data: This refers to basic subscriber information, such as name, address, telephone number, and IP address logs. It is often considered less sensitive and can be disclosed more readily under the SCA.
  • Content data: This includes the actual content of communications, such as the body of emails, photos, or documents. Accessing content data typically requires higher legal standards due to privacy concerns.

Limitations and Legal Requirements

The SCA does allow service providers to voluntarily disclose information, including content, if there is an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury to a person. However, the provider must act in good faith on this belief. The key points to consider are:

  • Service providers are not required to disclose information; they have discretion to do so if they believe an emergency situation exists.
  • Providers often have their own policies and procedures for handling EDRs, which may include internal reviews to assess the legitimacy of the request.
  • While non-content data is more commonly disclosed, content data can also be disclosed under the appropriate circumstances.

Consulting Legal Professionals

Given the sensitive nature of EDRs and the potential for abuse, it is crucial for law enforcement to articulate a clear and present danger to justify the request. Service providers must carefully evaluate the situation to ensure compliance with the law and protection of user privacy. In cases where there is uncertainty or legal complexity, both law enforcement and service providers may benefit from consulting with legal professionals.


In summary, an Emergency Disclosure Request is not strictly limited to non-content data. While non-content data is more commonly requested and disclosed due to its less intrusive nature, content data can also be disclosed if there is a good faith belief that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury exists. It is important for both law enforcement and service providers to handle these requests with due diligence and respect for legal standards and user privacy.

For more detailed information on the Stored Communications Act and the process of emergency disclosure, you can refer to the U.S. Code Title 18, § 2702. If you are involved in a situation where an EDR may be pertinent, it is advisable to seek personalized legal advice from a qualified attorney.

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