Tech Groups: Pass International Communications Privacy Bill

A group of major tech industry groups are calling on House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders to act on legislation to clarify the legal process for law enforcement officials to seize communications stored abroad.

The tech groups, which include the Consumer Technology Association, the Internet Association, CompTIA, and ACT the App Association, called on leaders to pass a bill to help firms competing in cloud computer services in a letter released Thursday.

“Cloud services are responsible for the smartphones we rely on today and are empowering the rise of the Internet of Things,” the groups wrote. Between them, the groups represent tech giants including Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.

“American companies face uncertainty in the U.S. legal process regarding when a company can be compelled to give up data stored by a foreign national,” the groups said, adding that the situation “places these companies at a significant competitive disadvantage in the international digital economy.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a the International Communications Privacy Act, or S. 2986, in May with Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), while Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) introduced a House companion measure with Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) as an original cosponsor.

The legislation would allow legal officers to access messages of U.S. citizens anywhere in the world if they can obtain a warrant first. The measure would also allow investigators to obtain warrants for the online communications of foreigners if they are in or originate from a nation that has a law enforcement pact with the United States.

The groups said they carefully negotiated this process with the lawmakers involved in the legislation. They praised the bill for reinforcing the need for warrants to seize any electronic communications while “settling” any confusion over the legal data protections available to foreigners.

They called on Senate and House leaders to pass the bill “as soon as possible.”

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