The new LEADS Act Offers Essential Reforms that Rectify Outdated Privacy Laws

Microsoft is pushing for the adoption of a new LEADS Act (Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad) because it offers “essential reforms that rectify outdated privacy laws,” including safeguards for U.S. data stored abroad. Microsoft is presently embroiled in a legal case in which the U.S. government wants information from servers located in Ireland but owned by Microsoft. The issue is not whether a government can request data held within its borders but whether it can access data held by a company based within its borders but that stores the data in another nation.

Microsoft contends the U.S. government already has a legal path available to demand the information by requesting it directly from the Irish government using the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. InfoWorld’s Caroline Craig reports at http://goo.gl/GL72C2 the United States is not taking advantage of this treaty because the “Justice Department considers that process too slow and wants to deal directly with the U.S.-based company.” Convenience also doesn’t seem a compelling enough reason to gain the unfettered right to extraterritorial reach.

One argument is that if the U.S. government succeeds in making a U.S. corporation reveal information stored on foreign servers, it won’t be long before other governments will be able to force their corporations to reveal information stored within the U.S. Obviously, this would include repressive governments whose interests are hostile to U.S. interests.

It’s certainly obvious that there is a need for new legislation. As Microsoft states, “The bipartisan Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (LEADS) Act of 2015, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, offers essential reforms that rectify outdated privacy laws. We commend the sponsors – Reps. Tom Marino and Suzan DelBene – for introducing this critical legislation.”

The full statement from Microsoft is available at http://goo.gl/HF0TBb.

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