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 That has raised alarm that criminal and terrorism investigations are being hindered by outdated laws that make the current process for sharing information slow and burdensome.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.

Google to Push for Law Enforcement to Have More Access to Overseas DataThe 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.

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.

Applying for admission? Take your social media posts seriously

Harvard University’s decision to rescind admission offers to 10 incoming freshmen because of offensive Facebook posts comes at a time of heightened attention to free speech and student conduct on US college campuses, and has stirred debate far beyond the halls of the Ivy League school. Other schools say it’s an eye-opener for those involved in the admissions process.

“We’re going to continue to watch how this unfolds and, with other higher education institutions, learn from it,” said Janet Bonkowski, spokeswoman for the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay.

Harvard rescinded the admission offers after discovering the students had traded offensive images and messages on a private Facebook group, student newspaper The Harvard Crimson reported. The posts were often sexually explicit and mocked Mexicans, the Holocaust, sexual assault and child abuse.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts, university declined to comment, but the school does tell accepted students their offers can be withdrawn if their behaviour “brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character.”

Its decision may have been rare, but the situation it addressed was not: young applicants crossing lines in their social media posts. Mike Reilly, a former college admissions officer in Washington state and now an executive with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said Harvard’s move can be seen as incongruent with free speech.

US colleges, Harvard University, Harvard Crimson, Harvard University admissions, Harvard University admission rescission, racist facebook posts, world news, education news, indian expressBut Nancy Beane, a high school counsellor in Atlanta and president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said zero tolerance for racist comments should be the standard for all institutions of higher education.

“We’re all humans. We’re all going to make mistakes and make poor choices in our lives, but there are consequences,” Beane said. “I’m not sure why we’ve decided people can say whatever they want, do whatever they want, and there are no consequences for it.”

In 2015, the national counselors association surveyed its members at more than 1,700 colleges and found less than a third reported rescinding an admissions offer each year. Nearly 70 percent of those colleges said it was because of a dishonest application, while 20 percent said it was over a disciplinary issue. Social media behavior wasn’t considered a reason to drop a student.

David Cruz, 22, who is studying hospitality management at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, said Harvard did the right thing. The transfer student pointed to colleges across the country that have been criticized for not doing enough when it comes to troublesome student conduct, from reported sex assaults to racist incidents.

“Their students acted on their own, but that also represents the school,” Cruz said. “Whatever you post, everyone can see it, whether you’re trying to hide it or not.”

Some admissions officers can and do use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites when assessing applicants, though they generally don’t patrol the internet for damaging information. Instead, they consider online posts when something specific is brought to their attention.

Still, social media content being used to oust a student is uncommon. The University of Wisconsin, for instance, doesn’t check applicants’ social media accounts and doesn’t have plans to start.

In general, dropping an admitted student is a last-resort move, reserved for the most egregious cases. Even then, the college usually will attempt to keep the student by confronting them with the hope that an explanation and a slap on the wrist will resolve the issue.

Harvey Mudd College in California has never rescinded an offer because of a social media profile, said Peter Osgood, its admissions director. But he recalls one instance where school officials discussed an objectionable post with an admitted applicant.

“This matter was dealt with privately and discretely, and that student became a wonderful citizen for the college, even a much valued tour guide,” Osgood said.

US Slams EU, but Apple Tax Demand First Issued in Washington

US Slams EU, but Apple Tax Demand First Issued in Washington
  • The US Treasury said Commission ruling endangers EU-US economic relations
  • Amazon and McDonald’s are still being investigated
  • A series of EU accusations that Google has abused its market power

The United States is furious at the European Union for handing Apple a $14.5 billion tax demand on Tuesday but EU officials say it was Washington which put them on to the scheme in the first place.

It was a US Senate report in May 2013 revealing the tech giant’s deal with the Irish government to rule a big slice of its global earnings untaxable that prompted the European Commission to launch its own inquiries the following month.

The US Treasury said the Commission’s order that Apple pay 13 billion euros in back taxes to Ireland – which the company and Dublin are appealing – endangers EU-US economic relations just as efforts to reach a transatlantic free trade pact unravel.

A senior Democratic senator said Brussels had made “a cheap money grab” for US revenues.

But his party colleague who chaired hearings into Apple’s taxes three years ago, Carl Levin, said the Europeans were only trying to take what US authorities had failed to claim by not closing loopholes that allowed firms to hoard profits overseas.

“The IRS has failed to stake a claim for US taxes on those revenues,” he said in a statement, referring to the US Internal Revenue Service. “So Europe attempts to fill the vacuum. Shame on Apple for dodging US taxes. Shame on the IRS for failing to challenge Apple’s tax avoidance.”

For Marcel Fratzscher, president of leading German economic think-tank DIW Berlin and author of a new book on growing inequality, the mudslinging between politicians reflects how global corporations have exploited competition for investment to blunt states’ efforts to co-operate against tax avoidance.

“Companies are playing one government against another,” he told Reuters.

EU Listened to Senate
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, a straight-talking Dane who dismisses talk of leading an anti-American crusade, says the hearings at the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations chaired by Levin were what gave her Spanish predecessor grounds to demand disclosure by Apple and Ireland.

“The Commission listened and decided to look deeper into the matter,” Vestager said in June, crediting media reporting and hearings in the British parliament for also providing evidence to help break secrecy around nearly 1,000 cases across Europe.

The Commission said in its judgment on Apple that the United States and other countries were welcome to try and claim some of the unpaid taxes for themselves – highlighting just the complaints of Levin and other senators three years ago when they skewered Apple CEO Tim Cook for failing to bring cash home.

As well as Apple, Starbucks was ordered to pay more Dutch taxes and Amazon.com and McDonald’s are still being investigated; a series of EU accusations that Google, part of Alphabet Inc, has abused its market power have also fuelled complaints from US President Barack Obama’s administration that Europe is out to punish American success.

 

Competition lawyer Pierre Sabbadini said political pressures drove different responses by different authorities. Leaks and public hearings on tax deals had created pressure among voters for the EU to act in 2013, he said, while the size of the companies targeted gave them clout with political leaders, too.

“When investigation-target companies have grown to the size of Apple, they can reach out for political support,” he said.

The Obama administration has taken its own action to curb tax avoidance schemes lately. In April, amid public controversy over drug company Pfizer’s proposed merger with Allergan Plc of Ireland, it announced plans to curb so-called “tax inversions”, by which US firms have undertaken cross-border mergers in order to switch to a domicile abroad and so avoid US taxes.