THE CLOUD ACT: How Unconstitutional Data Collection Crosses US-UK Borders

6 min readNov 29, 2018


President Donald Trump often frames himself as the opponent of big tech, calling the industry an unaccountable hub known for “political censorship, blacklisting, and rigged search results” which harm online democracy. It was his administration, however, that secretly passed one of big tech’s supported measures which subverts the privacy protections of The Fourth Amendment through state-corporate tyranny.

On Tuesday, nine human rights and civil liberties organisations signed a public letter to the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) objecting to a potential agreement which would grant the United States and British law enforcement the right to broad access held by big tech companies without a warrant. Such an invasive alliance is being justified under The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (otherwise known as The CLOUD Act), which has been lobbied by corporations and DOJ officials since 2016 and was signed into law by the president earlier this March when the budget was passed.

While no cross-country data collections have seemingly been done since, the latest agreement would grant foreign ally law enforcement access to individual user data held by U.S. tech companies without a warrant so long as the search target is not a U.S. citizen or resident (who would require their due process under the law).

The Intercept reports of these “executive agreements” only being handled between the president and the foreign governments requesting mutual data, sidestepping the oversight of Congress. The only requirement for foreign governments to join in this exchange is to “demonstrate respect” for human rights, however the vague language could allow countries like Saudi Arabia, known for their genital mutilation and beheading of apostates, to join the exchange for currently sitting on the United Nation’s Human Rights Panel.

“London investigators want the private Slack messages of a Londoner they suspect of bank fraud,” the public letter reads. “The London police could go directly to Slack, a U.S. company, to request and collect those messages. The London police would receive no prior judicial review for this request. The London police…


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