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Right-leaning groups back international data privacy bill

Right-leaning groups back international data privacy bill
© Greg Nash

A coalition of right-leaning groups is pressing Congress to act on legislation that would create a new legal framework that allows law enforcement to access U.S. electronic communications held on servers abroad.

The bipartisan bill, called the International Communications Privacy Act, has been introduced by Reps. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLive coverage: Trump delivers his first State of the Union Overnight Regulation: Government watchdog to probe fake net neutrality comments | California, greens sue over fracking rule | EU fines Qualcomm .2B over payments to Apple Prison reform gains new momentum under Trump MORE (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in the House, and Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOvernight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Overnight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach Hatch introduces bipartisan bill to clarify cross-border data policies MORE (R-Utah), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOvernight Cybersecurity: Tillerson proposes new cyber bureau at State | Senate bill would clarify cross-border data rules | Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up breach Hatch bill would dramatically increase H-1B visas Live coverage: Shutdown begins MORE (D-Del.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerHeller campaign slams GOP rival over six-figure nonprofit salary Juan Williams: Help Trump climb down from the wall GOP Senate candidate fundraising lags behind Dems in key races MORE (R-Nev.) in the Senate. 

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The bill seeks to clarify the process by which law enforcement obtains electronic data on U.S. citizens for investigations, regardless of the location of the communications. It would require law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant for all content. It would also allow law enforcement to, in certain circumstances, obtain electronic communications on foreign nationals. 

On Wednesday, right-leaning organizations including Americans for Tax Reform and the R Street Institute wrote to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees pressing them to swiftly consider the bill. 

“[The International Communications Privacy Act] is an important step in modernizing the legal regime surrounding electronic communication in a way that will help protect the rights of American citizens, provide clear guidelines for law enforcement, and improve engagement between domestic and foreign law enforcement,” they wrote in the letter. 

“This will help create an environment in which American technology companies can continue to innovate, provide valuable services to their customers, and help keep the American technology sector on the cutting edge of innovation while producing jobs,” they wrote.

Technology companies like Microsoft have also signaled support for the legislation.

Proponents of the legislation have cited the decades-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act as a reason for the new legislation, describing it as outdated in the new era of advanced technology. 

The issue has gained greater attention as a result of an ongoing legal battle between Microsoft and the U.S. government over an effort by the Justice Department to seize data from the tech giant that was stored on servers in Ireland.

The Supreme Court announced last week that it would take up the case, after the Justice Department objected to a lower court ruling that favored Microsoft. 

“The current laws were written for the era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote in a blog post last week reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision. “We believe that rather than arguing over an old law in court, it is time for Congress to act by passing new legislation, such as the International Communications Privacy Act.” 

Wednesday’s letter was also signed by leaders of the National Taxpayers Union, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and FreedomWorks, in addition to other groups.