A Conservative Movement Toward Privacy Protections

Fighting to Enact the LEADS Act

Influential conservative groups have written a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees to act quickly on the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act), a bill designed limit the Department of Justice’s effort to grab jurisdiction of most every piece of data stored on cloud computing systems all over the world.  Politico wrote that “a handful of conservative advocacy groups want the House and Senate Judiciary committees to advance” the LEADS Act.

The LEADS Act would require law enforcement to get a warrant to access email archives and Americans’ personal data stored abroad.  The LEADS Act protects privacy to electronic communications and protects American companies doing business abroad.

The issue came to a head when the Department of Justice issued a warrant for emails of an Irish citizen on servers situated in Ireland and owned by an Irish company.  The company also happened to be an subsidiary of Seattle-based Microsoft, giving DOJ all the excuse they needed to bypass Irish law to grab the material in question.  Microsoft balked and went to court noting that if the material in question were a piece of paper, rather than a form of electronic communications, the DOJ would, by treaty obligation, need the acquiescence of Dublin to see the material in question.  Two lower courts sided with the government and unless Congress acts or the Supreme Court reverses the lower courts, privacy will suffer again and American companies abroad would be at a competitive disadvantage to their local counterparts who don’t have face the threat of the Obama administration snooping through their customers emails. 

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Center for Policy Analysis dispatched the letter to Chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) saying the government’s reliance on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to obtain information on foreigners is hurting American companies. “This practice creates distrust of American businesses and encourages foreign citizens, companies and countries to stop doing business with U.S. companies operating overseas,” they write. “We hope you will support the LEADS Act, which strikes the right balance between the legitimate needs of law enforcement and the privacy of American citizens.”

The LEADS Act is supported by a host of tech companies like Microsoft, IBM and groups like the Business Software Alliance. The clock is ticking.  Congress should act.  

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