Backers of the CLOUD Act, which would change the way the federal government deals with foreign law enforcement requests for user information held by U.S. tech companies, are excited that Congress has attached the bill to this week’s must-pass spending bill.
Last night Congress released the 2,232-page draft of its $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, which includes money allocated for everything from border walls to opioid abuse prevention. The bill also includes the CLOUD Act, a bill proposed in February that would allow U.S. law enforcement to access the personal data of citizens stored in cloud servers overseas and remove a layer of federal review from similar requests coming from foreign law enforcement agencies for data on their citizens stored in the U.S.
Microsoft is excited. The most prominent backer of the bill, which is also supported by most of the tech industry, issued a statement Wednesday night upon the release of the omnibus bill.
“Today is an important day for privacy rights around the world, for international relations, and for building trust in the technology we all rely on every day,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer for the company. “The inclusion of the CLOUD Act in Omnibus funding bill negotiated by Congressional leaders of both parties is a critical step forward in resolving issue that has been the subject of litigation for over four years,” he said, referring to the case between Microsoft and the Department of Justice pending before the Supreme Court over many of these same issues.
Privacy advocates are concerned about the CLOUD Act because it vests a great deal of power in the executive branch to strike information-sharing agreements with foreign governments, and because it could create problems for smaller tech companies that lack Microsoft’s legal budget. There’s also likely to be no debate or no hearings over this piece of legislation, thanks to its inclusion in the massive spending bill that touches all number of political hot buttons.
Update: Looks like the U.S. House of Representatives passed the spending bill Thursday morning without much of a debate on anything, let alone the CLOUD Act. The Senate vote comes next.
House passes $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill 256-167, ending months of sometimes chaotic budget fights. Senate is up next.
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) March 22, 2018