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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 CollinsTrump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs McCarthy woos Freedom Caucus with eye on Speakership Georgia's Perdue, Kemp to appear with Fox News's Laura Ingraham MORE (R-Ga.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in the House, and Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMellman: What happened after Ginsburg? Bottom line Bottom line MORE (R-Utah), Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Overnight Health Care: Moderna to apply for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine candidate | Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge | US more than doubles highest number of monthly COVID-19 cases Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate MORE (D-Del.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play 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.