Privacy

Omnibus Bill Chips Away at Citizens' Abilities to Protect Data from Government Snoops Across the World

The CLOUD Act improves data sharing with governments by reducing oversight.

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Surveillance
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The omnibus spending bill Congress is considering right now isn't just about spending money we don't have and saddling future generations with debt. It's also about chipping away at their data privacy, too.

Buried deep in the omnibus bill—we're talking 2,200 pages in—is legislation intended to give the feds access to data held by American companies overseas. It also will have the effect of making it easier for foreign countries to gain access to data being stored here in America, and that makes human rights and privacy groups very, very concerned.

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act, acronymed the CLOUD Act, seeks, in part, to resolve a current dispute between the Department of Justice and Microsoft that is before the Supreme Court. The feds want access to data connected to a drug trafficking suspect. This data is being stored in Dublin, Ireland, not on American soil, and therefore Microsoft has been resisting.

The CLOUD Act would require that communication providers cough up this information even if the data is stored outside the United States, provided it's about an American citizen.

That's not all the act does, and the rest of it has human rights groups worried about the implications. The act also changes and apparently simplifies the process for foreign governments to also request data about their citizens when that data is stored on American soil. It reduces the amount of bureaucratic oversight in the process and reduces the ability of Congress or the judicial branch to step in to potentially block data sharing with countries that have reputations for using this private information for oppressive purposes.

As such, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Campaign for Liberty oppose the CLOUD Act.

Over at The Hill, Neema Singh Guliani of the ACLU warned about the consequences of giving only a couple of high-ranking people in the executive branch the authority to determine which governments the United States would cooperate with:

The bill would give the attorney general and the secretary of State the authority to enter into data exchange agreements with foreign governments without congressional approval. The country they enter into agreements with need not meet strict human rights standards – the bill only stipulates that the executive branch consider as a factor whether a government "demonstrates respect" for human rights and is similarly vague as to what practices would exclude a particular country from consideration. In addition, the bill requires that countries adopt procedures to protect Americans' information, but provides little specificity as to what these standards must include. Moreover, it would allow countries to wiretap on U.S. soil for the first time, including conversations that foreign targets may have with people in the U.S., without complying with Wiretap Act requirements.

In a letter sent by the groups to lawmakers, they also warn that CLOUD Act doesn't include a warrant requirement for communications over 180 days old, meaning that it doesn't guarantee constitutional standards are followed, or require law enforcement to alert people when the government gets access to their data.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) complained last night on Twitter about the CLOUD Act getting shoved into the omnibus bill so that there will be no debate about what it does. He clearly doesn't like it, nor does his bipartisan partner in online privacy, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). Microsoft's president, however, supports it, because no doubt with this process in place, the company can point to it and not have to take responsibility (or legal liability) when a government violates somebody's rights.

NEXT: Mark Zuckerberg Is Calling for Regulation of Social Media To Lock in Facebook's Position

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  1. Can we put CLOUD and GDPR in a cage and make them fight to the death?

    1. PPV so we can at least some semi-private entity can recover some of the lost revenues, right?

  2. At some point, I expect Paul and Wyden to have a serious talk over a few drinks about the direction the surveillance state is headed and the result is going to be a murder/suicide pact. How depressing must it be to be the only ones crying “Wolf!” when everybody else insists it’s only a cute little puppy.

  3. My proggie friends we posting an article this morning, they were distraught about it. I can’t begin to explain why this and not any of the other shit I try to make them aware of but no matter, I’m going to strike while the iron is hot.

    *puts on proselytizing mustache*

    1. Is it happening during a Trump administration? There’s your in.

      1. Fuck, I should totally throw Trump under the bus to instill a fear of government overreach. Damn I should have opened with that. “Fuckin’ Dump, look at this shit.”

    2. I give it a week before you’re banned for wearing a ‘proselytizing moustache’.

      1. I tend to have more success with my proselytizing merkin.

  4. Where are all the “heroes” on this legislation? The cops, the firefighters, the soldier boys, the veterans, and the organizations which incessantly whine that not enough money is filched from us for their benefit?

    1. They’re a part of the machine, same as all the others in the bureaucracy.

  5. Because all the idiot proggies are jockeying for position as the new Data Czar and they all literally think they are the only one who thought of it.

  6. Last night, in the thread regarding the porky progressive teacher, there was so much vile informed by love of sucking military cock, yet nothing but crickets from that crowd on this topic.

  7. The omnibus is short.

  8. OT: The current Google doodle is rather problematic. Katsuko Saruhashi does not look very Japanese.

    1. None of us use Google I’m sure. We all use Bing.

      1. I’m gonna Ask Jeeves to slap you on the mouth.

      2. Well, as I learned here recently, Bing is superior for NSFW content.

  9. “”The act also changes and apparently simplifies the process for foreign governments to also request data about their citizens when that data is stored on American soil. It reduces the amount of bureaucratic oversight in the process and reduces the ability of Congress or the judicial branch to step in to potentially block data sharing with countries that have reputations for using this private information for oppressive purposes.”‘

    I would not be surprised if this is for reciprocity so the US could ask another country for data from a US citizen.

  10. It reduces the amount of bureaucratic oversight in the process and reduces the ability of Congress or the judicial branch to step in to potentially block data sharing with countries that have reputations for using this private information for oppressive purposes.

    This is called “deregulation”. Isn’t that a good thing?

    After all, deregulation is all about reducing bureaucratic overheads, thereby making it easier, simpler, and cheaper for someone (e.g. a corporation) to do things.

  11. Yeah, and in some countries it is easy for the government to get data once a local company has that data. After all that talk about not trusting Russia, Congress just passed a regulation that will make it easier for Russia to tract down former citizens. London was surprised by Glushkov’s murder. I don’t normally follow international intrigue, but it was front page news while I was in London. On the lighter side of things, I had a pleasant conversation with a random stranger in Heathrow while we waited to board the plane back to the USA. He said Austin was his final destination.

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