Could U.S. Tech Companies Face Overseas Warrants?

Could U.S. Tech Companies Face Overseas Warrants?
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The Obama administration is said to be in negotiations with international governments that could eventually allow them to serve U.S. technology companies with warrants on things like email and wiretaps, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The first agreement will likely be signed with the U.K., according to the report.


The negotiations were discussed by a senior Justice Department official on Friday. Any deals would not provide access to data from U.S. citizens or residents. They would also have to be approved by Congress and international lawmakers.

Complicating matters is a recent federal appeals court ruling that said U.S.-based federal warrants cannot be used on search data stored in overseas data centers. The case, brought by Microsoft, was viewed as a major blow to law enforcement and a win for privacy advocates.

Law enforcement argues it should have access to data in the event it can stop or solve a crime. Particularly in the wake of the Snowden leaks, however, technology companies do not want customers to think they are participating in government surveillance.

The move to allow foreign governments to access U.S. Internet company data could make that divide even greater. Privacy advocates aware of the negotiations are already decrying the proposals, saying that it would put individual liberty at risk.

Looking ahead, any U.K. deal would serve as a template, the Journal says. But Congress has dragged its feet on updates to legislation like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which dates back to 1986.

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