Congress must update law governing user data stored overseas.

By: Craig Silliman
Clouds above government building

Next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in United States v. Microsoft. This is an important case that questions the reach of a United States warrant to obtain data stored overseas and has led to important debate about law enforcement and the sovereignty of nations. Yet, however the Court resolves the case before it – an opinion is expected by June – the Court will likely leave many questions, particularly important policy ones, unanswered. Congress must resolve those issues.

The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act is a step towards modernization of the Stored Communications Act (SCA). Last month, I called for Congress to update the SCA, which was written in 1986, before the Internet era and certainly before companies stored customers’ data in the cloud or overseas.

The Cloud Act, like other bills in recent years, tries to find a balance between law enforcement needs and the sovereignty of other nations when companies store their data overseas. It’s an advance because it would revamp an archaic statute and give our customers and our industry sorely needed guidance in a world that has changed by leaps and bounds since 1986. 

Next week’s argument will again focus attention on the important issues raised by United States v. Microsoft. But, in the end, it is Congress that must legislate a balanced solution and modernize the Stored Communications Act.

About the author(s): 

Craig Silliman is Verizon’s general counsel and executive vice president for public policy. He leads Verizon’s legal, regulatory, public policy, government affairs and security groups.