Hill ICPA Backers Hail Microsoft Decision

Congressional backers of the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) hailed the Second Circuit appeals court's decision in Microsoft v. U.S. as providing momentum to their bill.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Thursday (July 14) ruled that courts are not authorized to issue warrants on U.S. service providers for the seizure of e-mails stored on foreign servers.

The ICPA provides a way for U.S. law enforcement to get access to electronic communications wherever they are located.

“Today’s decision confirms that current law does not provide U.S. law enforcement with authority to access data stored overseas," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). "ICPA provides this authority by establishing a legal standard for accessing electronic communications around the world. Our bill will strengthen privacy and promote trust in U.S. technologies worldwide while still enabling law enforcement to fulfill its important public safety mission. The court’s decision removes any excuse for Congress to delay passage of this legislation.”

“Today’s Second Circuit decision in Microsoft v. U.S. demonstrates why it is essential that Congress take action to establish clear procedures for U.S. law enforcement to use when seeking data stored overseas," said Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.).

Rep. Marino said: “Our current electronic communications laws fail to address the advancements in technology over the last 30 years. When ECPA was enacted, cloud storage wasn’t even an idea. Today, U.S. companies work on a global scale and house information on servers all across the world. It is Congress’ job to recognize these lapses and update our laws to reflect the issues of the day. Today’s ruling clearly calls for Congress to act.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) said the court decision was "a great step in the right direction, and yet another sign that Congress should act swiftly to enact a solution.” She said existing electronic communications laws "never contemplated this era of cloud storage, where U.S. companies are maintaining servers abroad and providing web-based services to customers worldwide. It is the job of Congress to bring the law up to date where clear gaps exist. U.S. companies and consumers need clarity on when and how they are obligated to turn over electronic communications to U.S. law enforcement if that information is stored abroad."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.