On Wednesday, I was very pleased to participate in an event sponsored by Hackers and Founders on what I consider to be one of the most important issues facing us in the digital age: the relationship between citizen and government.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to protect us against unreasonable government intrusions on our privacy. It protects our "persons, houses, papers and effects." Pretty much everyone, including officials at the US Justice Department, agree that "papers" includes the digital content of our laptops, tablets and mobile phones.
However, the Justice Department claims that the Constitution provides no protection at all to data once it leaves your device and is stored with a service provider. In the era of cloud computing, that's pretty much everything. Emails, texts, documents, photos, calendars. The government claims you have zero Constitutional rights in anything stored with a service provider (Google, Dropbox, Salesforce, AWS, and on and on). And if you happen to be a company storing data on behalf of your users, the government claims it can force you to disclose that data with a mere subpoena, issued without the approval of a judge, and can bar you from even telling your customer what is happening.