September 23, 2010 – Microsoft urged Congress for extensive legislative and law enforcement changes to protect information stored by consumers and companies, particularly with the explosion of cloud computing.

Brad Smith, general counsel for the computing giant, addressed Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. on ways to reform the nearly 25-year old Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

As use of the Web to store and send data continues its rapid expansion, Smith said Microsoft supports updating, clarifying and strengthening the ECPA soon in ways that would not “compromise” enforcement.

“While this law has served us well for many years, continual advances in technology … have called into question whether ECPA is adequate to meet our needs as a society today and into the future,” Smith stated, according to testimony posted on the committee’s website.

The ECPA was passed in 1986 as a means to give law enforcement access to information while still providing individuals with a right to privacy as stated in the Fourth Amendment.

Smith frequently backed changes suggested by the Digital Due Process Coalition and said that concerns such as storage of data by vendors outside of the U.S. may require additional legislation.

In a primer on cloud computing to legislators – in which Smith noted the use of technologies by mainstream corporations like Dominos Pizza and by health care provider The Cleveland Clinic – the Microsoft representative noted that respondents to surveys by his company mark privacy and security as paramount with cloud technology.

“Given these widely-shared concerns about privacy, it is important that as we move from the era of the desktop PC to the era of Internet-based technologies such as cloud computing, we ensure that users are not forced to relinquish their privacy rights or control over their data to enjoy the benefits and efficiencies that Internet-based technologies make possible,” Smith stated.

Also speaking before the congressional body on Wednesday were United States Department of Commerce general counsel Cameron F. Kerry and Jamil N. Jaffer, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and former White House counselor who stressed that substantive changes to the ECPA should be “approached with great caution” because of implications to law enforcement investigations.

Google and Amazon also testified Wednesday before a House Judiciary Committee in support of adopting changes outlined by the Digital Due Process Coalition. Microsoft is also joining representatives from IBM, Dell, CA Technologies, Adobe and others in meeting with federal administrative officials on electronic privacy and cloud computing as part of the sixth annual Business Software Alliance forum.

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