At this point there’s no escaping it—the future is in the cloud.
Millennials understand this better than anyone. Whether we’re uploading photos to Instagram, storing files on Google Drive, or sharing projects via Dropbox, we’re using the cloud to save personal data that then makes its way to servers around the globe.
Until our laws reflect this new reality of data storage, the future – at least as it pertains to privacy – will be in jeopardy.
Current U.S. laws regarding email and data privacy are outdated in a way that threatens the privacy of cloud users, tipping the scales of privacy toward government and law enforcement. The law that regulates when the government can demand that companies turn over your private emails, posts and other information – the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) – was passed all the way back in 1986.
A lot has changed in the digital realm since then, especially now that the cloud stores data all around the world. It’s not clear how ECPA should apply to American data stored outside the U.S., and some of ECPA’s criteria for determining when the seizure of data requires a warrant doesn’t make any sense given modern technology. Many of the terms that are now standard industry lingo didn’t even exist thirty years ago.
In short: the world is changing, and our privacy laws need to as well. It’s not just vital for the privacy rights of Americans— it’s a crucial opportunity for the U.S. to set the standard for international privacy, commerce, and cooperation as it relates to new technologies and new forms of trade.
New legislation already exists. Last Congress, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) introduced a bill called the International Communications Privacy Act (ICPA) that would strengthen privacy protections while updating regulations to reflect modern-day realities.
Unfortunately, the bill was targeted with highly controversial amendments and didn’t make it anywhere. We should demand that this Congress give it another go, and fast.
The right privacy protections become increasingly important as more of our lives are lived online and in the cloud. The future is certainly trending in that direction— let’s try not to wait until the cloud is storing our every thought.