Last week, US courts gave corporations a major win when it comes to data searches. A federal appeals court ruled that US government can’t force companies to hand over data stored overseas. But a new planned agreement between the UK and the US could change that.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the plan, proposed by the Obama administration, would allow the US government to search corporate computers in the UK while allowing the UK to do the same in the US. The major caveat being that searches could only be related citizens of the country doing the searching. So the UK could not peer into Trump’s private missives and the US could not take a gander at whatever was spewed forth from Boris Johnson’s keyboard.
There are quite a few barriers to the Obama administration’s plans, however. First is the aforementioned ruling. In April, Microsoft sued the Department of Justice to keep the US government from serving secret search warrants to retrieve data held overseas. It won the case last Thursday, and the Department of Justice is now considering filing an appeal to appear before the Supreme Court.
Beyond clearing that hurdle, the DoJ will also need the approval of the US legislature (the UK will need approval from its legislature as well). And things could get tricky there. The tech lobby, including Microsoft, Apple, and Google, are opposed to expanded abilities by governments to search computer data overseas. When a powerful lobby is that opposed to a plan, it makes passing said plan difficult.
When asked for a comment, Apple steered Gizmodo toward Reform Government Surveillance’s statement on the news. The RGS statement neither condemns nor supports the proposed UK/US agreement. Instead it simply urges a strong framework and respect for privacy.
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Microsoft, in addition to being opposed to the plan, actually supports another proposed piece of legislation, the International Communications Privacy Act. That legislation would, among other provisions, create a framework for law enforcement to obtain data from US citizens, regardless of where the person or data was located.
We’ve also reached out to Google, and will update if we hear back.
UPDATE: Google referred to the same post Apple referred to on the matter.