Rep. Collins Tries to Add Data Access Bill to Spending Measure

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By Sara Merken and Dean Scott

Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins is trying to attach a measure that would create a mechanism for U.S. law enforcement to access to data stored in other countries to an omnibus spending bill.

Collins told Bloomberg Environment March 7 that he is trying to attach his entire bill ( H.R. 4943) to a prospective fiscal year 2018 omnibus “as is.”

The issue of where companies store consumer data across borders is before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Microsoft. The high court is weighing whether Microsoft Corp. must turn over to U.S. law enforcement user emails stored in Ireland. The court heard oral argument Feb. 27 and is likely to hand down its ruling in the high-stakes privacy case by the end of June.

Microsoft, Alphabet Inc.’s Google Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. are backing Collins’ bill, dubbed the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act. The legislation would allow the U.S. to make agreements with foreign countries dealing with U.S. law enforcement requests.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the sponsor of a companion Senate measure ( S.2383) “is exploring all avenues to have the CLOUD Act passed and signed into law,” Matt Whitlock, a spokesperson for Hatch, told Bloomberg Law.

Collins’ legislation hasn’t yet been added to the prospective omnibus spending bill, which is still being drafted ahead of a March 23 deadline to avoid another government shutdown, a House Republican aide told Bloomberg Environment. There is widespread congressional support for putting the CLOUD Act in the omnibus, the aide said.

There is an “urgency” in passing the Cloud Act now because of the Supreme Court case, Collins said.

Congressional leaders are close to “allowing the court to determine legislative intent on extra-territorial push. If we allow that to happen, then we could lose from a privacy and private standpoint,” Collins told Bloomberg Environment. “We could lose some of those protections, which the bill actually has in it.”

“We need to get this settled and law enforcement is in complete support of what we’re trying to do,” Collins added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Merken in Washington at smerken@bloomberglaw.com; Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Barbara Yuill at byuill@bloomberglaw.com

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