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Originally published March 30, 2010 at 7:57 PM | Page modified March 30, 2010 at 7:56 PM

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Microsoft, Google in coalition to boost 'cloud' privacy

A broad coalition of technology companies, including Microsoft, AT&T, Google and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum said they would push Congress to strengthen online privacy laws to protect private digital information from government access.

The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — A broad coalition of technology companies, including Microsoft, AT&T, Google and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum said they would push Congress to strengthen online privacy laws to protect private digital information from government access.

The group, calling itself the Digital Due Process coalition, said it wanted to ensure that as millions of people move private documents from their filing cabinets and PCs to the Web, those documents remain protected from easy access by law enforcement and other government authorities.

The coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, wants law-enforcement agencies to use a search warrant approved by a judge or a magistrate rather just a subpoena from a prosecutor to obtain online data.

The group also said it wants to safeguard location-based information collected by cellphone companies and applications providers.

It said it would lobby Congress for an update to the current law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which was written in 1986, nearly a decade before the use of the Internet became mainstream. It acknowledged that some proposals were likely to face resistance from law-enforcement agencies and the Obama administration.

Under current law, much of the information stored in "cloud-based" services like Gmail, Flickr or Facebook is accessible through a simple subpoena, which can be issued under looser rules.

"The U.S. Constitution protects data in your home and on your PC very strongly," said Mike Hintze, an associate general counsel at Microsoft.

"We don't believe that the balance between privacy and law enforcement should be fundamentally turned on its head," Hintze added, simply because people now store documents online rather than in their homes.

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