Last Updated: July 14, 2021
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that user data held on servers should get the same levels of protection as that stored in physical files.
This follows the revelation that Trump’s Department of Justice invoked the power of a secret subpoena to gain access to the phone records of reporters and Democratic representatives.
The exposure of the DOJ’s activities angered lawmakers, reigniting talks of limiting the federal government’s ability to secretly subpoena cloud service providers like Apple Inc., Google, and Amazon.com.
A Democratic representative, Zoe Lofgren, described this activity as “an end run on the protections that the Fourth Amendment is supposed to provide to every American.”
Similarly, GOP representative Tom McClintock said such actions in the United States are “in direct contravention of its most fundamental law.”
Gigabytes Through Gag Orders
A secret subpoena allows a government agency to demand access to personal information held by a data controller.
It comes with a gag order forbidding the controller to notify anyone that their data has been seized. This prevents affected parties from knowing and, therefore, effectively covering their bases by seeking legal counsel or making inquiries.
While this scenario involves the data of US representatives and reporters specifically, there is increasing concern about the privacy of private citizens too.
At a hearing on the matter, Microsoft executive Tom Burt says:
“Providers like Microsoft regularly receive boilerplate secrecy orders unsupported by any meaningful legal or factual analysis […] Many of these orders should never have been approved by the courts.”
In the age of big data, citizens are concerned about organizations and hackers getting hold of their private data. Cloud storage with user-controlled encryption is one line of defense, along with other tools like VPNs, password managers, and ID protection software.