Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Lobbying world Congress, stop holding 'Dreamers' hostage 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.
The legislation, known as the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, is co-sponsored by Sens. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats' filibuster gambit unravels Sen. Rob Portman announces positive COVID-19 test Ukraine president, US lawmakers huddle amid tensions with Russia MORE (D-Del.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two McConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks MORE (R-S.C.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseInfrastructure spending should not facilitate sawing down our National Forests Garland vows prosecutions 'at any level' over Jan. 6 To save America's democracy, Democrats need to start acting like Republicans 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.