US CLOUD Act – Giving Governments Access To Private Data Stored By US Tech Companies Is Passed

US CLOUD Act - Giving Governments Access To Private Data Stored By US Tech

The Cloud Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act) is a controversial last-minute addition to the $1.3 trillion federal spending bill which allows the US government access to American data for “law enforcement purposes”. It also gives foreign governments access to US company user data. This was signed into law according to GeekWire on March 23.

Privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) states that  “this final, tacked-on piece of legislation will erode privacy protections around the globe.”

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Sen. Rand Paul tweeted March 22, voting day, that

“Congress should reject the CLOUD Act because it fails to protect human rights or Americans’ privacy…read the twitter quote below

This bill met previous opposition several US organizations who spotted the late addition as a lack of “due process”. The content of the bill itself is a backdoor to the fourth amendment.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) posted a “Coalition Letter on Cloud Act” on March 12 stating that the bill, in their opinion, “undermines privacy and other human rights as well as important democratic safeguards”. Due to the fact that it bypasses Congress and the “existing stored information request procedure”, places authority in the hands of the executive branch.

The content of the Cloud Act allows the US government to make deals with foreign governments and the EFF add that the governments with human rights abuses are also not excluded. This would allow governments to directly contact US companies for data requests which “remove a layer of judicial review”.

On the other side of the argument, tech companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Microsoft wrote a joint letter on February 6 supporting the cloud act, proclaiming that the act would give customer protection:

“Our companies have long advocated for international agreements and global solutions to protect our customers and Internet users around the world. We have always stressed that dialogue and legislation – not litigation – is the best approach. If enacted, the CLOUD Act would be notable progress to protect consumers’ rights and would reduce conflicts of law.”

Microsoft posted a letter supporting the bill on March 21:

“Creates a modern legal framework for how law enforcement agencies can access data across borders. It’s a strong statute and a good compromise that reflects recent bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, as well as support from the Department of Justice, the White House, the National Association of Attorneys General and a broad cross section of technology companies […] it gives tech companies like Microsoft the ability to stand up for the privacy rights of our customers around the world. The bill also includes a strong statement about the importance of preventing governments from using the new law to require that U.S. companies create backdoors around encryption, an important additional privacy safeguard.”

Andreas M. Antonopoulos, a Bitcoin advocate posted on twitter after the Cloud Act passed that the public must now “go dark:”

Keeping personal data private has been the key point of the founding ideas of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and will continue to fight against public privacy issues like this one.

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