The bipartisan Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (PDF), introduced to the Senate yesterday, aims to iron out confusion around which laws apply when governments want access to data stored in the cloud.

Senators Orrin Hatch, Christopher Coons, Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse said that the US government's efforts to access data stored overseas are impeded by exactly that.

"In today's world of email and cloud computing, where data is stored across the globe, law enforcement and tech companies find themselves encumbered by conflicting data disclosure and privacy laws," said Hatch.

"We need a common-sense framework to help law enforcement obtain critical information to solve crimes while at the same time enabling email and cloud computing providers to comply with countries' differing privacy regimes."

The most obvious example where existing laws fail to address cloud storage is the ongoing legal wrangling between Microsoft and the US government.

The state says the Stored Communications Act requires Microsoft to share crime suspects' emails, but Redmond has refused, saying the search warrant can't reach beyond US borders.

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