U.S. lawmakers say it’s time to boost privacy around cloud data

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WASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) – The United States must give the same legal protections to user data stored on the servers of technology companies as it does to physical files stored in personal filing cabinets, media lawyers and lawmakers said on Wednesday .

Witnesses asked in a hearing whether the US government is abusing its covert subpoena power in a way that harms US internet users. The proceedings follow revelations that former President Donald Trump’s US Justice Department secretly sought phone records from journalists and Democratic officials to investigate leaks of classified documents. Read more

News of the DOJ’s investigations outraged lawmakers and sparked further discussion of limiting the federal government’s practice of secretly subpoenaing cloud service providers – companies like Microsoft, Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O ), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Alphabet Inc‘s (GOOGL.O) Google – to access e-mails, documents and instant messages of their users without giving them the opportunity to represent their interests.

United States Representative Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat from California, said the tactic was “an end to the protections the Fourth Amendment is supposed to provide every American.”

Hearst Corp Legal Director Eve Burton spoke on behalf of numerous witnesses when she told the House Judiciary Committee that “the same protections must apply whether information is sought from an office file. or on a cloud server across the country or across the world. “

This call received a warm welcome from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican from California, said this type of surveillance in the United States was “in direct violation of its most basic law.”

The only tech industry representative at the hearing, Microsoft executive Tom Burt, said over the past five years his company has received 2,400 to 3,500 confidentiality orders per year and the courts Americans offered little meaningful control.

“Vendors, like Microsoft, routinely receive standard confidentiality orders that are not supported by any meaningful legal or factual analysis,” Burt told lawmakers. “Many of these orders should never have been approved by the courts.”

Burt said that while efforts to target lawmakers and journalists bother many Americans, “what may be most shocking is how much court-imposed secrecy has become routine when the forces of the order targets email, text messages and other sensitive data stored in the cloud. “

Reporting by Raphael Satter in Washington Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco Editing by Grant McCool and Matthew Lewis

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