Republican senator pushes bill to require warrants for emails

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is preparing to reintroduce a bill to increase email privacy protections and set limits on the government’s access to content stored overseas. 

Hatch will introduce the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act on Thursday. He previously introduced the bill in September, along with Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). 

{mosads}“As Congress works to reform our domestic privacy laws, we must also clarify and modernize the legal framework for government access to digital data stored around the world,” Hatch will say in prepared remarks at the Reboot Congress conference on Thursday. “These two issues are inextricably linked.”

The bill would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant if it wants emails or other communications stored in the cloud. Under current law, only a subpoena is needed to force U.S. companies to hand over electronic communications more than 180 days old. 

The second piece of the bill would put restrictions on what kind of information the government can force a U.S. company to hand over, when that data is stored overseas. 

Under the change, the government could use a warrant to get access only to Americans’ data stored overseas, and not from foreigners. But a U.S. company could fight the government order if it would violate the foreign country’s laws. 

Microsoft and BSA — The Software Alliance endorsed his bill last year. The issue took on increased significance for Microsoft as it squared off with the Justice Department about access to data stored in Ireland. 

The Center for Democracy and Technology applauded the bill’s overall thrust last year but said it raised a number of other issues. 

A large number of House and Senate lawmakers are backing recently introduced legislation to require a warrant for older emails and documents stored in the cloud — the first piece of Hatch’s proposal. But he said those changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act do not go far enough. 

“Without an appropriate legal framework, the current state of affairs regarding extraterritorial use of warrants puts the privacy of American citizens at risk for intrusion by foreign governments,” he is expected to say. 

Another provision of Hatch’s bill would streamline a treaty system, known as the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process, that allows countries to exchange information relevant to law enforcement.

It would require the Justice Department to allow foreign governments to request the information electronically. It would also require the department to publish statistics on the number of requests it receives.

Tags Internet privacy Orrin Hatch
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