A number of national conservative groups have written a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees demanding quick passage of the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act), a bill that would reverse the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) attempt to grab jurisdiction of most every piece of data stored on cloud computing systems all over the world.
The legislation was prompted when Eric Holder’s Justice Department demanded Microsoft turn over electronic communications of an Irish citizen that were housed on a cloud server of an Irish subsidiary of the company. Lawyers note that if the materials in question were written forms of communication, as opposed to electronic, the US government would be required by treaty to get the Irish government’s sign-off before they could get access to the material. Instead, DOJ sought to bypass Dublin and demanded Microsoft turn over the material without the Irish government’s approval.
Signed by representatives from Americans for Tax Reform, Digital Liberty, Citizens Against Government Waste, Let Freedom Ring, and other organizations, the letter states: “Until now, the U.S. Government has relied on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to reach data of foreign citizens stored abroad so long as the company storing the data had a presence on U.S. soil. This practice creates distrust of American businesses and encourages foreign citizens, companies and countries to stop doing business with U.S. companies operating overseas. Eventually, this will harm U.S. companies and threaten America’s leadership in cloud computing technology.”
The letter is a reminder that “the U.S. Government can obtain emails wherever stored simply by serving a warrant on a provider subject to U.S. process; nothing stops other countries – including China and Russia – from seeking to obtain emails of Americans stored on servers in the United States. The LEADS Act addresses these problems by amending ECPA to clarify that law enforcement may use a warrant to obtain electronically stored communications overseas if the account- holder is a U.S. person. This extends the traditional reach of a warrant beyond U.S. borders, but is appropriately responsive to the global nature of electronic data storage in the 21st Century. The legislation provides that the U.S. law enforcement cannot require disclosure of data stored abroad if the data is not associated with a U.S. person or if accessing that data would violate the laws of the country where it is stored. Instead, the U.S. must work with the host country to obtain the data.”
The LEADS Act, introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Tom Morino, R-Pa., is supported by a host of tech companies like Microsoft and IBM as well as groups like the Business Software Alliance.
Two lower courts have sided with the government, and the Supreme Court has been asked to take up the case. Should they refuse, and legislation is not enacted, the DOJ would assume jurisdiction of most of the Internet, marking another blow against privacy.
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth