Google to Push for Law Enforcement to Have More Access to Overseas Data

Alphabet’s Google will press US lawmakers on Thursday to update laws on how governments access customer data stored on servers located in other countries, hoping to address a mounting concern for both law enforcement officials and Silicon Valley.

The push comes amid growing legal uncertainty, both in the United States and across the globe, about how technology firms must comply with government requests for foreign-held data. That has raised alarm that criminal and terrorism investigations are being hindered by outdated laws that make the current process for sharing information slow and burdensome.

Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, will announce the company’s framework during a speech in Washington, DC, at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that wields influence in the Trump White House and Republican-controlled Congress.

The speech urges Congress to update a decades-old electronic communications law and follows similar efforts by Microsoft.

Both companies had previously objected in court to US law enforcement efforts to use domestic search warrants for data held overseas because the practice could erode user privacy. But the tech industry and privacy advocates have also admitted the current rules for appropriate cross-border data requests are untenable.

The Mountain View, California-based company calls for allowing countries that commit to baseline privacy, human rights and due process principles to directly request data from US providers without the need to consult the US government as an intermediary. It is intended to be reciprocal.

Countries that do not adhere to the standards, such as an oppressive regime, would not be eligible.

Google did not detail specific baseline principles in its framework.

“This couldn’t be a more urgent set of issues,” Walker said in an interview, noting that recent acts of terrorism in Europe underscored the need to move quickly.

Google to Push for Law Enforcement to Have More Access to Overseas Data
Current agreements that allow law enforcement access to data stored overseas, known as mutual legal assistance treaties, involve a formal diplomatic request for data and require the host country obtain a warrant on behalf of the requesting country. That can often take several months.

In January, a divided federal appeals court refused to reconsider its decision from last year that said the US government could not force Microsoft or other companies to hand over customer data stored abroad under a domestic warrant.

The US Justice Department has until midnight on Friday to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court. It did not respond to a request for comment.

US judges have ruled against Google in similar recent cases, however, elevating the potential for Supreme Court review.

Companies, privacy advocates and judges themselves have urged Congress to address the problem rather than leave it to courts.

Google will also ask Congress to codify warrant requirements for data requests that involve content, such as the actual message found within an email.

Chris Calabrese, vice president of policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, said Google’s framework was “broadly correct” but urged caution about the process for letting countries make direct requests to providers.

“We need to make sure the people in the club are the right people,” he said.

Uber Said to Have Hired Law Firm to Probe How It Handled Delhi Rape Case

Uber Technologies has hired a law firm to investigate how it obtained the medical records of a Delhi woman executive who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014. The review will focus in part on accusations from some current and former employees that bribes were involved, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP, which is in the early stages of the probe, was hired by the ride service after employees gave contradictory accounts of how Uber obtained the medical records, one of the people said.

The firm is also exploring whether former Chief Executive Travis Kalanick knew how Uber came into possession of the records, the person added.

Kalanick through a spokesman declined to comment. Uber also declined to comment, and O’Melveny & Myers did not respond to a request for comment. Members of Uber’s board were briefed about the investigation in recent days, shortly before five major Uber investors sent a letter to Kalanick to demand his resignation, said the person. The probe was likely one reason the board turned against Kalanick, who stepped down on Tuesday, the first person said.

The investigation is ongoing and has not reached any conclusions on whether Uber improperly obtained the records. Reuters has no evidence that bribery occurred.

The rape survivor from Delhi sued Uber last week, accusing the ride service operator of improperly obtaining and sharing her medical records. The suit said that shortly after the rape occurred, former Uber Asia chief Eric Alexander “met with Delhi police and intentionally obtained plaintiff’s confidential medical records.”

Alexander, through spokeswoman Heather Wilson, denied paying any bribes and said that the files containing the victim’s records had been obtained through appropriate, legal methods.

Uber Said to Have Hired Law Firm to Probe How It Handled Delhi Rape Case

A Delhi police spokesman did not answer multiple phone calls from Reuters to seek comment. The rapist was convicted in 2015.

According to a person familiar with conversations between Kalanick and Alexander, the two executives had discussed obtaining the victim’s records because they suspected the rape might have been fabricated by Uber rival Ola to damage the company.

Another person said Alexander showed the medical files to colleagues in New Delhi more than once.

Wilson denied that Alexander had discussed or shared the records with colleagues. She said that Alexander believed the victim was raped and never expressed the view that it was a set up. Uber fired Alexander earlier this month.

Kalanick, 40, announced late on Tuesday that he was resigning as chief executive, though he would remain on the board of Uber. He said he had accepted “the investors’ request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

Privately held Uber has grown from startup to a global ride service valued at $68 billion in less than a decade, driven by Kalanick, who set the tone of a company that challenged laws and norms to succeed.

Confidence in Kalanick had been strained this year by claims of sexual harassment in the company and a lawsuit accusing Uber of benefiting from trade secrets stolen from self-driving cartechnology from Alphabet Inc’s Waymo.