Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, delivers remarks at an enrollment ceremony for 'Tax Cuts and Jobs Act' at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. on December 21, 2017. Hatch's CLOUD Act, which was included int he federal spending bill, gives U.S. law enforcement agencies easier access to Americans' electronic communications. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
March 25 (UPI) -- U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies will now have easier access to Americans' electronic communications after a new that was included in the federal spending bill.
The Clarifying Overseas Use of Data Act, also known as the CLOUD Act, gives law enforcement access to "the contents of a wire or electronic communication and any record or other information" if those contents are stored in servers overseas, regardless of the privacy laws in that country.
In addition, the CLOUD Act allows the President of the United States to enter into agreements with other countries to share private electronic communications and data of individuals regardless of the privacy laws of each country.
The sponsors of the bill -- Senators Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Chris Coons, D-Del., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. -- said it allows laws to catch up with technology.
"The CLOUD Act bridges the divide that sometimes exists between law enforcement and the tech sector by giving law enforcement the tools it needs to access data throughout the world while at the same time creating a commonsense framework to encourage international cooperation to resolve conflicts of law," Hatch said in a statement last month.
The bill also received praise from Microsoft President Brad Smith, who said it "creates a modern legal framework for how law enforcement agencies can access data across borders."
But critics of the CLOUD Act say it legalizes erosion of privacy rights.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital privacy organization, says people's private emails, social media chats and other online communications "will be open to foreign law enforcement without a warrant and with few restrictions on using and sharing your information."
The EFF also says the bill will allow U.S. privacy laws to be "bypassed on U.S. soil."
Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. attempted to get the bill an individual hearing and subsequent vote, saying it "places far too much power in the President's hands and denies Congress its critical oversight role," but that request was denied.