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Hatch introduces bipartisan bill to clarify cross-border data policies

Hatch introduces bipartisan bill to clarify cross-border data policies
© Greg Nash

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line The Republicans' deep dive into nativism Press: Forget bipartisanship — it's dead! MORE (R-Utah) on Monday introduced a bill aimed at creating a clearer framework for law enforcement to access data stored in cloud computing systems.

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Hatch’s bill is aimed at making it easier for U.S. officials to create bilateral data sharing agreements that allow them to access data stored overseas and also for foreign law enforcement to access data stored on U.S. firms’ servers.

The legislation, known as the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, is co-sponsored by Sens. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsUS, Iran signal possible breakthroughs in nuke talks How the United States can pass Civics 101 Americans for Prosperity launches campaign targeting six Democrats to oppose ending filibuster MORE (D-Del.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLindsey Graham: GOP can't 'move forward without President Trump' House to advance appropriations bills in June, July The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-S.C.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseJudge's decision on Barr memo puts spotlight on secretive DOJ office On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package MORE (D-R.I.).

Federal law currently doesn’t specify whether the government can demand that U.S. companies give it data they have stored abroad. The CLOUD Act would amend this, likely impacting Microsoft’s pending Supreme Court case over data it has stored in Ireland. A lower court has previously ruled that Microsoft doesn’t have to turn over data stored overseas, following a request for it to do so by the Department of Justice.

Microsoft CEO Brad Smith praised the legislation in a tweet, calling it an “important step toward enhancing & protecting privacy while reducing international legal conflicts.”

Multiple technology trade associations that lobby for Microsoft and other companies signed a letter supporting the legislation.

“The bill would establish a clear statutory right for providers to challenge an order that would create a conflict of law with a qualifying foreign government — that is, a foreign government that has a reciprocal agreement with the U.S.,” the associations wrote. “These provisions would greatly improve cooperation and dialogue among countries.”

Experts outside of the industry have also welcomed the bipartisan legislation, saying that it brings needed clarification over law enforcement’s access to foreign data.

"This is a much-needed piece update to the law with long-term benefits to privacy and security. It ensures the United States can, pursuant to a warrant issued based on a finding of probable cause, lawfully access communications content needed to effectively fight crime,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counsel at Human Rights Watch.

Daskal argued that the consistency the CLOUD Act would create would not just help U.S. law enforcement, but also provide a clear set of protections for U.S. citizen’s data as well.