Congress Can Protect Privacy of Our Email by Passing the LEADS Act

Sen. Orrin Hatch, sponsor of the LEADS Act to protect internet privacy Sen. Orrin Hatch, sponsor of the LEADS Act to protect internet privacy[/caption] One of the most prominent issues of internet privacy could soon be settled, one way or the other, by the Supreme Court. And result of that ruling may not necessarily lead to the issue being settled in favor of key privacy rights. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York will soon take up the issue, and decide if the Department of Justice (DOJ) has the authority, as it has asserted, to access information stored on foreign-based “cloud” servers in the form of emails and other electronic communications used by individuals and businesses. The DOJ sought to obtain access to information stored on a cloud server in Ireland by a subsidiary of Microsoft, against which Microsoft opposed legally in appealing the request. This lead to the current court battle over the issues as well as proposal for legislation to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to strengthen its out-of-date protections for privacy of data and communications on electronic servers. The use of cloud servers by individuals and businesses, as they are used now, was not envisioned when the law was enacted. A group of Senators, including Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), along with Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Dean Heller (R-NV) have proposed the LEADS Act (Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad) to protect internet privacy while assuring the ability to laws enforcement to legally obtain information when needed. After the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asserted the authority to access data stored on a could server in Ireland by a subsidiary of Microsoft, without due process or following the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) between Ireland and the United States, Microsoft fought this effort vigorously. This had lead to the court battle over the issues as well as the writing and proposing of the LEADS Act to enact strong legal protection of internet privacy for individuals and businesses using cloud servers. Currently, the U.S. government takes the position that it can compel a technology company to turn over data stored anywhere in the world, belonging to a citizen of any country, so long as the data can be accessed in the United States,” Sen. Hatch wrote in a statement on the LEADS Act. The LEADS Act protects the privacy of email and electronic data by requiring law enforcement agencies get a warrant from the court or otherwise abide by the requirements of obtaining such data under the laws of the country where the data is stored. Such protections, in a balanced manner, will protect the right of privacy of online data while allowing needed law enforcement access in an orderly manner. This is a pro-business, pro-innovation bill that will protect American privacy in the digital age and promote trust in U.S. technologies worldwide,” Sen. Hatch said about the LEADS Act, “While I agree in principle with the ECPA reform bills recently introduced in the House and Senate, neither establishes a framework for how the U.S. government can access data stored abroad. As Congress works to reform our domestic privacy laws, we must modernize the legal framework for government access to digital data stored around the world. This bill recognizes that these two issues are inextricably linked.” Republicans, and Democrats too, have the power to settle this issue and uphold internet privacy by enacting the LEADS Act. Congress should not wait for the courts to decide, and instead should immediately enact strong protections for the internet privacy of individuals and businesses by passing the LEADS Act and sending it to the president for signing into law. We the people elected this Congress to protect our rights and this is one key area where our elected leaders can work in our interests. The privacy our email and electronic communications depend on it.    ]]>

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