Friday, September 24, 2010

Debate Heats Up Over Police Access to Data in The Cloud

Aliya Sternstein writes on

Law enforcement officials told Congress on Thursday that restricting data in the cloud from surveillance would jeopardize public safety.

Authorities "must have reasonably expeditious access to stored information that may constitute evidence of a crime committed, or about to be committed, regardless of the technology platform on which it resides or is transferred," said Kurt F. Schmid, executive director of the Chicago High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which is part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Without these constitutionally tested authorities, the safety of the public is put at significant risk." Schmid testified at a hearing of the House Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee.

His warning comes at a time when the House and Senate are considering updating the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which extends wiretapping restrictions to electronic communications such as e-mails. The current law protects communications from interception by law enforcement only when they are stored on computers, not when they are stored on the Internet.

Lawmakers argue the rise of Web mail and other cloud computing services -- applications third-parties provide to users online and on-demand -- has created uncertainty and confusion among law enforcement, the business community and U.S. consumers about the privacy of Web-based transactions. Justice Department officials contend that before the advent of the cloud, the law helped authorities find drug traffickers, child predators, terrorists and other criminals. Privacy advocates say it now fails to adequately protect huge amounts of personal information.

More here.


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