WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) today to reintroduce the bipartisan Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (“LEADS”) Act, which will reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to promote international comity and law enforcement cooperation.
"Law enforcement agencies wishing to access Americans' data in the cloud ought to get a warrant,” Senator Coons said, “and just like warrants for physical evidence, warrants for content under ECPA shouldn’t authorize seizure of communications that are located in a foreign country. The government’s position that ECPA warrants do apply abroad puts U.S. cloud providers in the position of having to break the privacy laws of foreign countries in which they do business in order to comply with U.S. law. This not only hurts our businesses’ competitiveness and costs American jobs, but it also invites reciprocal treatment by our international trading partners."
Senator Hatch said, “This is a pro-business, pro-innovation bill that will protect American privacy in the digital age and promote trust in U.S. technologies worldwide. While I agree in principle with the ECPA reform bills recently introduced in the House and Senate, neither establishes a framework for how the U.S. government can access data stored abroad. As Congress works to reform our domestic privacy laws, we must modernize the legal framework for government access to digital data stored around the world. This bill recognizes that these two issues are inextricably linked.”
“The world is becoming more dependent on broadband internet by the minute,” Senator Heller said. “As this technological necessity continues to expand its role in our society, it is imperative the guaranteed rights of law-abiding citizens are balanced against the ability for law enforcement to do its job. This bill moves us in the right direction, and I will continue to work with all stakeholders to improve the bill so the LEADS Act becomes law.”
The LEADS Act promotes U.S. business by allowing U.S. companies to compete on a level playing field. The LEADS Act would clarify ECPA by stating that the U.S. government cannot compel the disclosure of data from U.S. providers stored abroad if accessing that data would violate the laws of the country where it is stored or if the data is not associated with a U.S. person—that is, a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States, or a company incorporated in the United States. Without this legislative change, a German tech company could claim that German citizens should not use U.S. Internet services because those services are more vulnerable to U.S. law enforcement collection efforts. The bill aims to strengthen privacy in the digital age and promote trust in U.S. technologies worldwide by safeguarding data stored abroad, while still enabling law enforcement to fulfill its important public safety mission.