Email Privacy Case Dismissed Following Passage of CLOUD Act

Email Privacy Case Dismissed Following Passage of CLOUD Act

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court yesterday dropped a case on its docket that probed whether emails and other data stored overseas are subject to U.S. search warrants.

Justices ditched the case after the CLOUD Act was signed into law in late March.

The piece of legislation was buried deep in a $1.3 trillion spending bill and makes clear that warrants can apply to data that U.S.-based companies store around the world. 

“The CLOUD Act forces U.S. companies to provide user data and communications requested by subpoena or search warrant, regardless of where the information is stored,” industry attorney Lawrence Walters told XBIZ. “Previously, a court ruled that Microsoft was not required to provide emails stored on foreign servers when requested by a U.S. warrant.

“The case was set to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, however passage of the CLOUD Act mooted the legal challenge. 

Walters said that many privacy advocates have criticized the law as not being sufficiently protective of Fourth Amendment rights over searches and seizures, and subject to abuse by those seeking information about citizens of foreign countries who may have more robust privacy rights in the data.

“While the Act does not target adult industry operators, it should be clear that data cannot be hidden on foreign servers operated by U.S. companies,” Walters said. “Such data is now subject to search in response to a proper subpoena or warrant directed to a U.S. service provider.”

And that warrant must be based on probable cause, industry attorney Paul Cambria told XBIZ. "That lets them go beyond the shores to acquire the data."