Federal authorities are pushing for new rules to force American-owned internet companies to open all electronic data to intelligence agencies regardless of geography, sparking privacy concerns for consumers abroad.
According to the British Daily Telegraph
, concerns are mounting after a New York court ordered Microsoft this month to give prosecutors the emails of a European customer stored on its servers. The case is being appealed, but if not overturned, the ruling could force other tech giants to turn over personal information of overseas users to agencies such as the NSA, CIA, and FBI.
"Why should the American security services be able to access to our MPs emails, when even the British security services cannot?" said John Hemming, a British Member of Parliament.
"It is a great mistake for Parliament not to manage its own servers. This is an alarming vulnerability. MPs and their constituents should be aware that their communications are not secure."
If the ruling is upheld, data stored in the "Cloud" which is owned by American companies could be accessed by U.S. investigators regardless of geography.
One British expert said the legal case could have major implications for privacy for both British citizens and companies.
"Many U.K. citizens use U.S. services from Apple's iCloud, to Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo, and much of our data has historically been held in the U.S.," Professor Ian Walden of the Centre for Commercial Law Studies at Queen Mary University London, told the Telegraph.
"If the federal government is victorious it will raise the threat that if you come to the attention of the U.S. authorities whether directly or indirectly your information may be accessible if it's stored with American providers. There's also the concerns about industrial espionage that have always been there."
He added that businesses must carefully consider how they store data in the Cloud.
Another expert warned that the ruling could also hasten access to personal financial information and health records.
"The US Government is saying that it has jurisdiction around the world and it can get access to your data wherever you are," Gus Hosein of the campaign group Privacy International, told the Telegraph.
"That is why this court case is such a worrying development because the scope for spying on people's personal business is vast."
Last month, concerns were raised about the security of the Cloud after it was hacked and photos of scores of celebrities
were stolen and exposed in the media.
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