Tuesday 17 October 2017

Google calls for new laws to speed up offshore data requests

Google’s Kent Walker is calling for an update of old laws
Google’s Kent Walker is calling for an update of old laws

Dustin Volz

Google has pressed US lawmakers to update laws on how governments access customer data stored on servers located in other countries, hoping to address a mounting concern for both law enforcement officials and Silicon Valley.

The push comes amid growing legal uncertainty, both in the United States and across the globe, about how technology firms - many with large operations in Ireland - must comply with government requests for foreign-held data. That has raised alarm that criminal and terrorism investigations are being hindered by outdated laws that make the current process for sharing information slow and burdensome.

Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president and general counsel, was set to announce the company's framework during a speech in Washington, DC, at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that wields influence in the Trump White House and Republican-controlled Congress.

The speech urges Congress to update decades-old electronic communications laws and follows efforts by Microsoft.

Both companies had previously objected in court to US law enforcement efforts to use domestic search warrants for data held by them overseas because the practice could erode user privacy. But the tech industry and privacy advocates have also admitted the current rules for appropriate cross-border data requests are untenable.

Google wants changes allowing countries that commit to minimum privacy, human rights and due process principles to directly request data from US providers without the need to consult the US government as an intermediary. It is intended to be reciprocal. Countries that do not adhere to standards would not be eligible.

Current agreements that US allow law enforcement agencies access to data stored overseas, known as mutual legal assistance treaties, involve a formal diplomatic request for data and require the host country obtain a warrant on behalf of the requesting country. It can take months.

In January, the US federal appeals court refused to reconsider its decision that the government could not force Microsoft or other firms to hand over data stored abroad under a domestic warrant.

US judges have ruled against Google in similar recent cases.

Companies, privacy advocates and judges themselves have urged Congress to address the problem rather than leave it to courts. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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