The White House Wants to Make it Easier For Firms to Fork Over Customer Data

By Steve Anderson May 05, 2014

Most users of virtually any technology out there—particularly technology that comes with an account that has to be stored somewhere—want that data protected, and kept strictly secret between the user in question and the company with which said user has signed up. But as we've discovered over the last several months, the government would also occasionally like access to that data, and that's made for some difficulty all around. Now, the White House is looking to help make it easier for the companies with the data to hand it over, by seeking legal immunity for those firms who turn in customer data.

More specifically, the Obama administration is seeking additions to legislation being drafted that offers protection for “...any person who complies in good faith with an order to produce records...”, allowing firms to more readily comply with court orders seeking the data in question after the NSA stops gathering all that data on a wholesale basis. The request in question is said to bring back an earlier, similar proposition raised by the Fisa Amendments Act seen back in 2008, offering immunity from lawsuits on a retroactive basis to those companies that allowed the NSA access to call data that took place between American citizens and foreign nationals.

But the White House's efforts aren't the only ones in the track; there are also bills emerging from the House of Representatives that take on the issue of domestic spying as well. There are some clear conflicts between what the White House is hopeful for and what the Senate and House seem to be ready to offer, but that's often the case in such matters. Some have even suggested that getting a final product ready to vote on may prove difficult as every side involved in the matter seems to want something different.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

With some reports suggesting that CISPA may be looking to make a comeback for the third time, and the Snowden affair still reasonably fresh in the minds of regular users, it's an issue that's stuffed with complexity and a lot of difficulty in setting up a decent operating structure. People don't particularly want to be spied on, and that's not surprising. The more people have access to that kind of data, the greater the likelihood that it could be misused, or found by those who would misuse such data. Thus, common reaction at the user level is to keep data between those who offer the services users desire and those who use said services. But government agencies believe—and perhaps not misguidedly—that having access to such data can be a big help when it comes to tracking down terrorists and the like, a prospect that many users find worthwhile. Governments want access to this data, yet regular users don't want it swept up without good reason, the kind provided by judges issuing warrants.

While protecting companies against lawsuit for complying with court orders doesn't sound like a bad idea, the idea of protecting user data in the first place really needs to be the standard by which we all work. Sure, some access to customer data is going to be both necessary and desirable, but we already have measures in place to allow government access to such data in the search warrant. As a whole, we should likely be less focused on protecting companies and more focused on protecting individual users whose data is at stake here.



Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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