Monday, 18 July 2016 09:11

Foreign govts could serve warrants on US firms Featured

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The United States is working with foreign governments to draft agreements that would allow the latter to serve warrants for email searches and wiretaps on US technology companies doing business in these countries.

According to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), the plans were discussed at a public forum in Washington DC by Brad Wiegmann, a senior Justice Department official, who said the first agreement was being worked out with the UK.

The news comes a few days after Microsoft won a landmark case to prevent the US government from using a domestic warrant to gain access to the email data of one of its clients which was stored in Ireland. The US had claimed the data was relevant to a drug-trafficking operation.

The report said that while the Justice Department had indicated it was considering an appeal, the decision could influence other companies to route customer data away from the US, to prevent American authorities from sharing the data with other governments in criminal and terrorism investigations.

Under the agreements discussed by Wiegmann, foreign governments would be able to serve a warrant on an American company to see stored emails of an individual or else gain access to messages in real time. The only fiat is that such surveillance would not be possible in the case of US citizens of residents.

Any such deals would work both ways: US investigators would be able to search data in other countries by going directly to the providers.

Wiegmann was reported as saying that the US would sign such agreements only with countries that have protections for civil liberties that ensure search orders are not abused.

"These agreements will not be for everyone. There will be countries that don’t meet the standards," he was quoted as saying.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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