Spammers who use cloud computing services beware! The FBI could be knocking down your door anytime, and you’d have no clue you were being tracked. In a case Wired has named “the first publicly acknowledged search warrant benefiting from a suspect’s reliance on cloud computing,” FBI agents quietly got hold of incriminating spreadsheets from diet supplement-peddling spammers’ Google accounts.
In this case, the FBI had obtained a search warrant which allowed them to get the files from Google directly, as opposed to showing up at the spammers’ homes to confiscate their hard drives (and thus alerting them of the investigation.)
But what’s worrying groups like the EFF is that there’s some ambiguity as to whether or not a warrant is needed to seize cloud data at all. According to the 1986 Stored Communications Act, the government can access an individual’s cloud data where there is “reasonable grounds” to do so, whereas obtaining a search warrant for the individual’s physical hard drives requires a more convincing “probable cause.”
A Google spokesperson said that the company is making an effort to inform users when their data is requested by a third party, though the spammer defendants in this case said that they had received no word from Google that their documents were being searched. There’s no doubt that cloud computing makes users’ lives easier. But it looks like it might make law enforcement officers’ lives a little bit easier, too.