Archive for January, 2017

New Irish Warrant Case Decision – Again – Points to Need for Congressional Action to Update ECPA

posted by in Data January 27, 2017

The importance of this week’s decision by the Second Circuit to deny rehearing in Microsoft’s Irish warrant case has less to do with the action in court and more to do with what happens next. Specifically, with what happens in Congress.

Last July, a panel of the Second Circuit held that a warrant issued by US law enforcement under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) does not have extraterritorial application. As Judge Carney notes in her concurrence with this week’s order: “[I]n many ways the SCA has been left behind by technology. It is overdue for a congressional revision that would continue to protect privacy but would more effectively balance concerns of international comity with law enforcement needs and service provider obligations in the global context in which this case arose.”

Laws regarding privacy and law enforcement have always struggled to strike a tricky balance: they must ensure that personal data receives the greatest protection possible while enabling investigators to do their job of keeping the public safe.

Unfortunately, in the digital world, the three decades-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which is part of the SCA, does neither effectively.

This is understandable. Remember, when ECPA was enacted more than 30 years ago, our use of technology and cloud computing was dramatically different. Today, we store nearly all of our information in the cloud – emails, pictures, documents, health and financial records – and we expect to be able to access it whenever and wherever we are. Thirty years ago, we did not have the web of globally connected data centers and the software to move our data seamlessly around the world.

Software companies and civil liberties groups have urged Congress for years to update ECPA. The updates that passed the House of Representatives unanimously and had bipartisan sponsors in the Senate last Congress would make much-needed changes to enhance privacy protections that we have long championed. This week’s Second Circuit opinion is an important reminder that Congress must also focus on creating an international framework for accessing data – an issue that has also already received bipartisan, bicameral leadership in Congress.

As judges on the Second Circuit have said repeatedly since oral arguments in the case back in September 2015: the best next step is “congressional action to revise a badly outdated statute.” Our digital privacy laws need an update to protect both our privacy and security.

An Open Letter to Congress: Software Industry’s Priorities Create Jobs

posted by in Data, Industry, Intellectual Property January 12, 2017

Dear 115th Congress,

Congratulations on your election to office – we look forward to working with you. Job creation will undoubtedly be a top priority on your list in the coming year, and it’s a top priority for our industry. As our recent economic impact report shows (done in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit) the software industry contributes more than $1 trillion to the US GDP, nearly 10 million jobs, and $52 billion in R&D, with significant effects in each of the 50 states. As you begin your work, we’d like to draw your attention to software industry priorities that directly impact jobs in the US.

It’s predicted that by 2020, the number of new computing jobs in the US will rise to 1.4 million, but we’ll have just 400,000 computer science students with the skills to apply for them. Congress can and must make investments in STEM education. With the proper training, thousands more Americans will be prepared to take those great-paying jobs.

To help increase jobs in the US, Congress can maintain a firm stance on international data policy. Companies of all sizes across all industries rely on the ability to transfer data around the world to provide essential services. Recently, other governments have pushed to keep data within the confines of their borders. This would have serious effects on the ability of businesses in the US to offer services abroad, and thus threaten American jobs. Congress can help businesses in all 50 states grow by supporting a strong data policy agenda.

The software industry also hopes to see Congress work on polices to properly protect intellectual property. These policies will in turn foster jobs because they encourage the research and development that drives innovation. Patent reform can reduce frivolous litigation and free up resources for greater investment. Congress should look to enable the jobs of the future as software continues to develop a range of cutting-edge technologies that greatly improve lives and help solve intractable problems.

Software is and will continue to be a major driver of jobs in the US. We stand ready to support you in improving the lives of our citizens and the economic future of our country.

Sincerely,

The Software Industry c/o BSA | The Software Alliance