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The CLOUD Act Could Be Used to Bypass the 4th Amendment

March 16, 2018, on Criminal Investigations |

A federal criminal investigation attorney can help you to ensure that your rights are respected if you are under investigation for breaking the law. The U.S Constitution is supposed to protect you when you are accused of a crime. For example, the Fourth Amendment is supposed to ensure your right to privacy remains in tact during a criminal investigation by preventing unlawful search & seizure without due process.

Unfortunately, there is now a possibility that a back door has been introduced that could allow law enforcement to access your information in a way that would otherwise violate the Fourth Amendment. That back door is the CLOUD Act. 

The CLOUD Act Could Be an End-Run Around the Fourth Amendment

The Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a warning about the CLOUD Act, which recently found its way into a bipartisan omnibus spending bill put forth by the U.S. Congress to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

The CLOUD Act is similar to the FISA Act, which gives the NSA authority to read, search, and share private emails without getting a warrant first. Like the FISA Act, police are given the authority to seize cross-border data without following the privacy rules that are in place in the location where consumer data is stored. This could potentially result in law enforcement agencies accessing emails, online photos and videos, chat logs, and other online information shared between private parties.

The CLOUD Act has two primary components that the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes could serve to bypass Fourth Amendment protections. One of those components gives U.S. authorities the power to seize data stored anywhere in the world without following the foreign data privacy rules. 

The other component gives the U.S. president the authority to unilaterally enter into agreements with any nation anywhere in the world, including nations that are notorious for human rights abuses. Because of the way the agreement is structured, those other nations that don't have the same level of protections provided by the Fourth Amendment could simply obtain data from U.S. companies that is stored in the U.S. without following any of this country's rules or requirements for due process.  This would be permissible as long as a U.S. person was not specifically being targeted.

This is a back door way around the Fourth Amendment because when these foreign authorities collect this data about foreigners from U.S. companies, they could end up also collecting data that belongs to a U.S. person who is not a target of an investigation but who happened to be communicating with someone who was being investigated. 

American communications of innocent people would likely end up being included in the information obtained by these foreign officials without any review by a judge in the United States and without the foreign authorities having to show probable cause. The foreign officials could then hand the data over to the U.S. government, which could potentially then use it to charge Americans with crimes.

Because of back doors like this, it is imperative that you get legal help to protect your rights if you are under investigation for any crime. A federal criminal investigation attorney can assist you, so contact an attorney as soon as possible.

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