by John V. Petersen, J.D., Neuron ESB
*This post is part of ACSblog’s symposium examining proposed reforms to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
The cloud – remote access to shared computer resources – saves American businesses millions of dollars a year. But regulatory uncertainty around data and privacy, and overreach by American law enforcement, threatens access to this critical resource.
As a software developer and attorney, I’ve seen both the technical and legal growth of this resource. My information technology practice and business is about assisting customers all over the world to create hybrid environments, often in the cloud, where all their systems can work together. Without a secure and reliable cloud, the needs of many businesses would go unaddressed.
The cloud has facilitated commerce on a scale never before seen. The exponential growth of the app economy – a $120 billion dollar industry after just seven years – demonstrates the profound impact of this technology. The cloud provides all companies an affordable infrastructure that allows us to compete in a global marketplace.
Based on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) – a statute five years older than the world wide web – the Department of Justice claims it has authority to access the data of U.S. companies’ customers stored anywhere in the world. We learned about this through Microsoft v. U.S. when the Redmond company refused to hand over emails in Ireland for a criminal investigation.
Because the cloud marketplace is dominated by U.S. companies, DOJ’s claim of extraterritorial jurisdiction would yield a broad reach into communications and data stored globally. Our trading partners are keenly aware of this and they are rather displeased.