back to article US Congress quietly slips cloud-spying powers into page 2,201 of spending mega-bill

For months now, US Congress has mulled new laws to strengthen Feds' powers to access American citizens' private messages and files stored on computers overseas. Now, rather than actually debate and refine such legislation, lawmakers have decided to tack it onto the massive 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill [PDF] and seek to pass it …

  1. bombastic bob Silver badge

    provided they get a US judge to approve a subpoena

    that would be the 'due process' part in accordance with the 4th ammendment.

    Of course, foreign server operators can tell the FBI (or whoever) to pack sand. So the law is actually _MEANINGLESS_ without foreign government cooperation. For a U.S. company, however, it's probably binding (in one form or another).

    More L[a]Yers getting enriched. Again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: provided they get a US judge to approve a subpoena

      foreign server operators can tell the FBI (or whoever) to pack sand.

      But foreign servers operated by a US corporation can't

      This would force MSFT to login to their Irish data center and get the data. Of course Ireland could retaliate with an army of ninja leprechauns

      Dear Mr Nadella introduce such a feature into the next version of the OS running on the foreign data center or get an orange jumpsuit, a bag over your head and a visit to one of the unlisted addresses run by our new CIA director.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: provided they get a US judge to approve a subpoena

        Yes, technically. There is a token requirement for foreign government permission. However, if any data is held on any U.S. company (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter), the U.S. government can have it with a court order. By the way, evidence shows that they can get rubber stamp orders from courts like the FISC if they want them. As for foreign governments helping out the course of privacy if you are lucky enough to store your data on a system that really has no American company involvement, most countries won't care so much about it. In fact, you are most likely to be safe if you store your private data in a country that respects your privacy because it doesn't give its citizens any. I bet anyone storing their data on Chinese-based servers is safe. From that specific thing. And significantly more at risk for a lot of other things but let's not think about that.

        I doubt that countries within the U.S. bubble will object like they should. Not only do they probably want the data on their own citizens, but the last thing they will want to do is to annoy the U.S. They dislike Trump, and I don't trust his administration to do anything good with the data, but we shouldn't forget that the Obama administration wasn't any more supportive to citizen privacy, having wholeheartedly supported the NSA slurp throughout. Whether you trusted them more, as I did, doesn't change the fact that politicians have a long history of not caring about your privacy.

        Anyone know a cure for cynicism?

  2. Mark 85

    I have a feeling that this law will not go away when the time on the budget runs out. And one has to wonder what other goodies are tucked away as "riders" such as the normal amount of porkbarrel projects. I have to hand it to the CongressCritters... best government money can buy.

  3. Grikath

    This bit of junk won't do the US govt any good if the data is held by a subsidiary set up as a foreign legal entity. Like most data centers are nowadays....

  4. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    I can't see what the problem is..

    It's a simple issue of jurisdiction.

    If data is held in the US, a US court can require it to be seized.

    If data is held in a foreign jurisdiction, it would have to be that country's court which orders it to be seized. The US court has no power over it.

    However, if a company is registered in the US, it is surely within the power of a US court to order that company to move its data from the foreign jurisdiction to the US? Upon which the data becomes subject to US jurisdiction again....

    1. Schultz

      Re: I can't see what the problem is..

      The law specifies the oversight required before data can be collected and shared. The problem occurs if there is no proper oversight and some bureaucrats can do whatever they want with whatever data they find.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The law specifies the oversight required before data can be collected and shared."

        Just, is only a US oversight over data which are abroad, which may not be even owned by a US citizen, and nobody outside US is notified about the seizure - all you can hope is a US company objects about the seizure of data belonging to non-US citizens... what are the chances it happens? How many would be able to sue MS, Google or Facebook if they become aware of that?

        I hope EU will warn US that EU citizens data must have a EU court approval for being accessed and I hope to see Privacy Shield disintegrating soon, and many US companies hit by GDPR violations - and there may be even bigger violations of many countries laws about basic rights.

    2. Nick Stallman

      Re: I can't see what the problem is..

      No for the obvious fact that the US doesn't have jurisdiction where the data is.

      It's like some evidence being over state lines, state police can't give someone permission to go across the border to go get it - they have to ask properly.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't see what the problem is..

      "It's a simple issue of jurisdiction .. if a company is registered in the US, it is surely within the power of a US court to order that company to move its data from the foreign jurisdiction to the US?"

      VM instances can be migrated to different regions rendering questions of jurisdiction irrelevant.

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Don't worry people

    Trump will embark on a trade war with any country stupid enough to say NO to their data slurp requests.

    Sanctions all round. A sure fire route to success. Well, it beats sending in the Marines now doesn't it? (sic)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real question is what else is in it? That's a lot of pages for a 6 month budget and this dodgy cloud act.

    1. Mike 16

      what else is in it?

      Well, for one thing, an exemption for Major League Baseball from paying minor league players minimum wage. I am certain that is one of many such blatantly corrupt insertions. Welcome the the U.S. Here's your lube.

    2. GrumpyOldBloke

      What else is in it? Just ask any congress critter that has actually read the bill. There must be one!

  7. choleric


    Methinks there might be a few "This page intentionally left blank" insertions into that stack of paper held by the honourable politician. Perhaps he printed out onto rolled polystyrene?

    1. Leedos

      Re: Paperweight

      You might want to go stack 4 reams of paper and take a look. It looks like about 4 1/2 reams of paper to me. I suggest someone let Sen.Paul and his assistants how to use duplex mode.

      1. choleric

        Re: Paperweight

        I was basing my initial assessment on my frequent experience of dealing with boxes of 2,500 sheets of paper. The pile in his arms looks bigger than such a box but it should only be 2,232 sheets max.

        However, on a second look this afternoon, I think I could be persuaded that the way the paper droops down at the front of the stack (paper in a box does not do that), and the way the perspective functions in the photo (he's holding it out in front of him while the camera is quite close by) make the stack look larger, while not actually massaging the number of pages in the stack.

        Nice point about duplex. That might slow down the already slow printing process a bit more though.

      2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

        Re: Paperweight

        Only a government worker would print 2.2K pages. That's the mix of antiquity, showmanship, and impracticality that can spend trillions of dollars with not much to show for it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Empire Strikes Back

    If anyone had any doubts about the warning of keeping confidential data in the cloud, this news should provide them with enough reason to finally take action.

  9. ThatOne Silver badge


    That rumbling sound?

    It's the founding fathers rotating in their graves...

    They worked so hard to create a society protected from the inadequacies and weaknesses of the human nature, and a mere couple centuries later - this... :-(

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Sad

      Rumbling ?

      Surely nothing but bats, cats, and dogs can hear it now, they'll be spinning so fast that the rumbling will have gone too high to be audible to humans !

      Icon - an offering for what your founders tried to do.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    The government really has a secret machine that spies on you every hour of every day

    Assuming the security people already have full access to FVEY affiliated companies data, I suspect such laws and similar calls to 'regulate' Facebook etc., are really designed to signal to the populace that everything they post on 'social' media is/can be monitored and as such dissuade the voters from engaging in real political activism. I say bring it on, as long as the rest of us get full access to the 'governments' records. After all, if you've done nothing wrong then you've nothing to hide.


    You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day

  11. DCFusor


    101 - put the whole world into the same bill that has to pass or fail together, that way, you can sneak in all manner of evil - and if it doesn't pass or is vetoed, call out the objectors for not supporting the tiny fraction of good stuff, and ignore that they objected to the bad.

    Procedural trickery, as old as the hills, totally out of control.

    The ballot box doesn't work. The soap box doesn't work.

    About time for some of those other boxes.

  12. cmaurand

    If I'm a foreign country or the EU, I'd tell the us to pound sand it they attempt to serve the subpoena.

  13. DerekCurrie

    Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution

    Let's make certain these US rights aren't violated.

    Meanwhile: ENCRYPT your data before it goes to the cloud. It's your right to privacy.

    Amendment IV

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Amendment V

    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

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