When compared to the rest of the world, here in the United States, we are afforded many freedoms and liberties through our own Constitution. For example, we have the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to bear arms (which of course is probably one of the most controversial topics of today), and the even the freedom to protest our own governments actions and policies if we as a society, deem them to be unfair.
One such movement is now happening in the world of Information Technology. The squabble is now over the recently introduced bill called the “Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act”, or “CLOUD” for short. The entire legislative bill can be seen here at this link:
It’s not too bad of a read, but it has a lot of legalese in it, making it actually quite boring. But anyways, this legislation is actually pretty important. Long story short, it has just been recently introduced to the US Senate as a means of determining which laws apply when a government wants to actually access data that is stored in the Cloud.
Really, this bill makes sense. Law enforcement agencies need to, if necessary, access data that is stored in the Cloud if they are dealing with solving very complex Cyber crime cases. But at the same time, these agencies simply cannot access data at their own whim, there are certain protocols that have to be followed first.
This is in an effort to protect the privacy of the law abiding group (which is most of us) that use the Cloud for own businesses or individual usage.
This quote sums it up rather nicely: “We need a common-sense framework to help law enforcement obtain critical information to solve crimes while at the same time enabling email and cloud computing providers to comply with countries’ differing privacy regimes.” (SOURCE: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/07/big_tech_biz_back_us_proposals_to_ease_overseas_data_transfers/).
In fact, many of the titans of tech are also embracing this legislation, and this includes the likes of Microsoft, Google, Cisco, and Apple. If you think about it even further, this legislation is also meant to help modernize the rather antiquated laws of Internet access to make sure that our private data cannot be accessed without just cause and a search warrant.
But, despite the good intentions of this newly introduced legislation, many civil rights groups are very apprehensive of it. Why, you may be asking? Well, these entities are afraid that the 4th amendment rights in our Constitution would literally be circumvented, and even greatly curtail the rights and privileges of these civil rights groups.
According to American Civil Liberties Legislative Counsel Neema Singh Guliani: “The act would essentially provide a backdoor for law enforcement at home and abroad to access emails, chat logs, videos and photos, without following the privacy rules where the data is stored.” (SOURCE: https://www.scmagazine.com/rights-groups-oppose-cloud-act-citing-privacy-human-rights-compromises/article/751754/).
In summary, the biggest fear of thee civil rights groups is that any foreign government could go directly to the doorsteps of any Internet Service Provider and ask for the private information and data on any user, and be able to bypass and checks and balances that have been previously established.
The same also holds true of the US Government going to the doorsteps of Internet Service Providers abroad and asking for the same thing. The status of this bill is that it currently stands in the hands of the Senate, awaiting votes for either approval or disapproval. The civil rights groups have urged members of the Senate to abandon the bill, and even any efforts to compartmentalize it with other pieces of related technology legislation.
Obviously, this is a complex situation, and I actually see both points of view on this one. But, my take on this is that although I firmly believe that the Internet should be a place where one can do what they want, it is also fast becoming a haven for the Cyber attackers to launch terrorist like threats from.
Because of this, law enforcement agencies and all governments alike, need to have the ability to access any data they believe that they can use to pinpoint the origins of the Cyber crime, and bring the perpetrators to justice.
As stated, the current Internet laws are out of date, and in a state of disarray, and need a bit of modernization. The CLOUD Act will enable for this to happen, and give law enforcement officials to act quickly to get the materials they need in order to catch the guilty parties, rather than having to wait weeks to get the clearance to get this needed data.
Remember, in the world of Cyber crimes, any minute lost to red tape or government bureaucracy means that the perpetrators will be launching their next wave of attacks. And believe it or not, given so much controversy and drama with the current Presidential Administration, this is maybe one thing that they are trying to do right.