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 CollinsHouse panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales House lawmakers roll out bill to make court records free Jewish advocacy group calls on Omar to apologize after 'stunningly anti-Semitic' tweet MORE (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in the House, and Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOrrin Hatch Foundation seeking million in taxpayer money to fund new center in his honor Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Utah Senate votes to scale back Medicaid expansion | Virginia abortion bill reignites debate | Grassley invites drug execs to testify | Conservative groups push back on e-cig crackdown MORE (R-Utah), Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsTrump got in Dem’s face over abortion at private meeting: report Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union MORE (D-Del.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds 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.