Fighting for Privacy in a Digital World

May 12, 2016 | Policy

One of the things that sets Data Foundry apart from its competitors is that its founders and stakeholders are fiercely advocating for digital privacy, open internet and data encryption. We also feel that it is our duty to be involved in local, state and federal policy-making when it comes to the privacy issues that affect us and our customers. Over the past couple of weeks, Congressmen Ted Poe and Pete Olson visited and toured our Texas 1 Data Center in Austin to better understand our operations and how security and privacy legislation affects our customers and the data center business in general.

Texas Congressmen Supporting Digital Privacy

Congressman Pete Olson (2nd from the left) discusses privacy issues with the Data Foundry team at Texas 1 in Austin.

After the congressmen toured the Texas 1 data center on separate occasions last week, we thanked them for their support of ECPA reform and discussed pending privacy legislation. The absurdity of the Burr-Feinstein encryption bill that demands a backdoor to encrypted data for law enforcement was also mentioned. Congressmen Poe is an advocate for bipartisan privacy legislation in a digital world, and he is currently sponsoring a bill that would require law enforcement to obtain warrants before accessing citizens’ electronic communications. The bill entitled “End Warrantless Surveillance of Americans Act” is also co-sponsored by Congressman Pete Olson and 41 other members of Congress.

He pointed out that his bill would also put an end to the “backdoor to encryption loophole” that law enforcement is currently seeking. In section 4, the bill prohibits a federal agency from requiring or requesting a manufacturer, developer, or seller of any computer hardware, software, or electronic device made available to the general public to design or alter the security functions in such products to allow the surveillance of any user or the physical search of such product by any agency.

Congressman Ted Poe (center) tours the Texas 1 data center.

Lack of Privacy Protection Forces Business to Move Overseas

Over the last few years, many tech companies have moved their servers overseas or opened data centers in Europe due to consumer demand for data protection laws, including Salesforce, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook. According to an article published on The Hill, their European clients prefer to have data protection under European laws. One of Data Foundry’s sister companies, Golden Frog, was incorporated in Switzerland and maintains servers there due to better privacy laws and consumer demand for privacy protection.

As published in an article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a proposal made to the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee back in the summer of 2013 clearly demonstrates Europe’s distrust. The proposal stated that U.S. websites should be required to give the following notice to users upon entering:

“The users should be made aware that the data may be subject to surveillance (under FISA 702) by the US government for any purpose which furthers US foreign policy.”

The lack of U.S. privacy law and its economic effects are felt by U.S. tech firms including cloud computing, hardware, social networking and software companies. Government surveillance and lack of privacy legislation causes companies and consumers to lose trust in U.S.-based IT firms. ITIF did a study predicting that the cloud-computing industry alone would lose 21.5 billion due to the threat of NSA surveillance between 2013 and 2016.

As reported by the Washington Times, Senator Ron Wyden stated in response to NSA surveillance, “If a foreign enemy was doing this much damage to the economy, people would be in the streets with pitchforks.”

If a backdoor to encryption were to become available to the U.S. government and law enforcement, e-commerce companies would have to move overseas just to survive. No one will want to make online purchases if their financial information is exposed.

Without encryption and proper cyber security protocols, e-commerce cannot take place. Additionally, encryption is essential for journalism and the prevention of corporate espionage, healthcare privacy and financial security. Congressman Ted Poe’s bill (HR 2233) would not only protect privacy but could have a positive effect on the U.S. economy through growth of trust and investment in U.S. IT infrastructure.

Where We Stand

Encryption and data privacy are vital to our business and our customers’ businesses. Data Foundry supports pro-privacy legislation and ECPA reform. We take a firm stance in favor of policies that require law enforcement to obtain warrants from a court of law before they can request, obtain or search through any type of data records or digital content. As Co-CEO Ron Yokubaitis says, “Encryption is the second amendment for the internet.”