Internet Law: The CLOUD Act Explained In Plain English

CLOUD ActFor the past several months, website operators and businesses have been (appropriately) focused on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). But did you know that U.S. lawmakers also folded a significant digital data law into the last federal spending bill? It’s called the CLOUD Act, and it altered the Stored Communications Act (SCA).

For decades, Internet Service Providers have used the SCA to shield customer information. When officials came knocking for user data, ISPs typically refused under the auspices of Stored Communications Act compliance.

Internet Law Case: The Tale of the Drug Dealer’s Emails

Take, for example, Microsoft’s so-called “drug dealer case.” The software company refused to hand over the emails, which were stored on Irish servers, of an alleged drug dealer. The suspect was a U.S. citizen who had created the email account while in Europe.

Now, nobody is suggesting that Microsoft is in the business of shielding possible criminals, but handing over the data would have established a slippery slope, which had the potential to leave the corporation legally vulnerable.  Not capitulating was the lawfully prudent decision.

Ultimately, the case morphed into a marathon of motions and hovered in judicial limbo. But now, since legislators approved the CLOUD Act, authorities will likely force Microsoft to fork over the requested data.

What does the CLOUD Act do?

Like all statutes, the CLOUD Act is a nuanced patchwork of international treaties and federal law. But the gist is this: On account of the CLOUD Act, authorities can demand user information stored on overseas servers without securing congressional approval.

Consumer watchdog groups, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believe the law is an abomination that erodes civil privacy liberties. Lawmakers, however, contend the statute is a necessary measure in today’s digital, global world.

Contact An Online Privacy Lawyer

Has the government or some other party subpoenaed information about a user on your website or app? Unsure what to do? We can review the situation and determine the best course of action.

HT Law has helped countless clients with various online privacy and tech law matters. Our knowledge is nuanced, and we keep startups budgets in mind. Get in touch today to begin the conversation.










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