Using Your Own Data Against You: The Cloud Act

There’s a saying that has been around for several years now, but has taken on extra importance recently: You can’t be fired for something you don’t post on social media. After Congress passed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (“CLOUD”) Act earlier this year, we may need an additional, slightly tweaked, version: You can’t go to jail for something you don’t do online.

Under the old Stored Communications Act of 1986 (“SCA”), there was some ambiguity as to whether companies served with a warrant had to hand over user data which was held on overseas servers. Some companies (most notably Microsoft) fought these warrants when federal agencies demanded data which was stored on overseas servers. The CLOUD Act, which amends the SCA, now allows federal law enforcement agencies to compel these US-based companies to hand over a user’s data, regardless of whether that data is being stored in the United States or anywhere else in the world.

Generally, to obtain a warrant, law enforcement must convince a judge that they have probable cause to believe criminal activity is occurring at a place to be searched or that evidence of a crime may be found there. What data can the government now demand if they obtain a warrant? The answer, essentially, includes almost anything you do online. Your Facebook posts, Google search history, Snapchat pictures, location data, and private messages are now much easier for law enforcement officers to obtain and potentially use as evidence against you in a criminal case. Regardless of where that data is stored or what the privacy laws are of the country where the data is located, federal agents now have a much easier time getting your data.

If you have been charged with a crime, make sure you get legal representation. Government agents have it easier than ever when it comes to using your own data against you, and even minor criminal convictions can have life-altering consequences. To speak with an attorney or to set up a consultation, call Camden & Meridew, P.C. at (317) 770-0000.

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