Legal rights over data stored online

January 19, 2010

James Urquhart shares a paper by David A. Couillard that addresses the fourth amendment and cloud computing.

The paper is a concise but thorough outline of where we stand with respect to the application of Fourth Amendment law to Internet computing. It finishes by introducing a highly logical framework for evaluating the application of the Fourth Amendment to cases involving cloud-based data.

Couillard’s framework:

[T]he service provider has a copy of the keys to a user’s cloud “storage unit,” much like a landlord or storage locker owner has keys to a tenant’s space, a bank has the keys to a safe deposit box, and a postal carrier has the keys to a mailbox. Yet that does not give law enforcement the authority to use those third parties as a means to enter a private space.

The same rationale should apply to the cloud. In some circumstances, such as search engine queries, the third party is clearly an interested party to the communication. But when content data, passwords, or URLs are maintained by a service provider in a relationship more akin to that of landlord-tenant, such as private Google accounts, any such data that the provider is not directly interested in should not be understood to be open to search via consent or a waiver of Fourth Amendment protection.

Does the Fourth Amendment cover ‘the cloud’? The Wisdom of Clouds James Urquhart January 17, 2009 (via Mike Gotta)

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