Why an Issue Now?
When the ECPA was originally written, there was no such things as “the cloud". Heck, the internet was barely a thing back then. In the last five years, cloud services have taken off due to their low costs and high reliability. Watch movies on Netflix or Amazon? You’re a cloud customer. Do you use Gmail for email? You’re a cloud user. Anyone using the internet is a cloud user whether you use email, watch movies, tweet or listen to music. Cloud services are everywhere.
When the Snowden leaks happened in 2013, Microsoft and other tech companies were somewhat relieved (and horrified) that their secret collaborations with the government were out in the open. Shortly after the PRISM project came to light, Microsoft and other tech companies won the right to tell their customers just how many government requests they receive.
This was a huge wakeup call for the public. Your government is spying on you and you didn’t know about it! Discussions around privacy became prevalent and service providers took notice.
According to Microsoft, over 5,600 legal orders were filed under the ECPA from 2015 to mid-2016. Of these, over 2,500 prevented Microsoft from disclosing the request to their customer.