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Omnibus Includes Digital Search-and-Seize CLOUD Act

by Countable | 3.22.18

What’s the story?

  • Congress attached the CLOUD Act to the must-pass omnibus package.

  • The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act would allow law enforcement organizations – both foreign and domestic – to obtain the personal data of citizens stored in overseas cloud servers.

SCOTUS considering this issue right now

  • The Supreme Court is currently deliberating over whether the Department of Justice has the legal authority to force Microsoft to hand over emails stored on a server in Ireland without permission from Ireland’s government.

  • During arguments last month, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked: "Why shouldn't we leave the status quo as it is and let Congress pass a bill in this new age?"

What are supporters saying?

  • The CLOUD Act is backed by bipartisan legislators, the DOJ, and tech companies including Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook. They see it as a way to streamline the legal process for requesting overseas data by removing a layer of federal review.

  • Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith tweeted a statement about how the CLOUD Act is a "a critical step forward in resolving issue that has been the subject of litigation for over four years":

What are critics saying?

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU are concerned about possible abuses of the law. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and over twenty other privacy and civil liberties organizations also oppose the bill.

  • The EFF warned the CLOUD Act is a "dangerous expansion of police snooping on cross-border data."

  • They also expressed concerns of how it "empowers the president to unilaterally enter executive agreements with any nation on earth."

  • The ACLU argued the legislation "threatens activists abroad [and] individuals here in the U.S."

What do you think?

Does the CLOUD Act impact privacy rights in a positive or negative direction? Does it give the executive branch too much power in deciding which countries it will share information with? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

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(Photo Credit: cybrain / iStock)

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