In poking around for the one call does all type of scheduling, accounting, email with clients, estimating, etc. etc. packages that save your data to "the cloud", I asked myself the question..."self" I asked "would all of my data...drawings, contracts, estimating, emails and ACCOUNTING be subject to Subpoena?"
Not that I've done anything wrong or worried, but....it was a valid concern while trying to make a choice on Construction Management programs. Since I had inquired at all the upper end Cons.Mgt. software producers, your contact information is optimized everyday with a email reminder for specials, upcoming versions, discounts and online seminars. I did a little research into the inquiry and found the answer...."it all depends."
Currently the Safe Cloud organization lost some ground earlier this year when the current administration did not prevail the topic being thrown about as Microsoft v. The United States and cloud privacy. It appears that the US is forbidden NOW to seek out, kick the doors in and take away data from foreign based Cloud servers. However, we're wide open on these soils to the legal pursuit of those that have expertise in pursuing the loopholes of the Cloud Storage Act which just a few years ago.....mehhhh, they had no grounds for wide open gathering of your files. That appears to have changed in this year.
So what, Bunkie?
This is what. I attended a UDA online session hosted by the president of UDA. When it came time to Q&A...I'd already submitted my question and was just hanging out to see what the Prez would allow.
"Here's a question from Dan in Georgia: Is your cloud service subject to subpoena?" About two to three minutes of tap dancing ala presto and the final word was...."Dan, I'd have to ask someone. I don't know."
Yea...right.<G I responded to the Q&A roll with a "I KNOW....I KNOW....Mr Caaaarter!!" in my best warthog impression in font. However, my response was never addressed.
Here's the scenario....the IRS sends you a "GREETINGS MR DANIELTURNER" on a Friday afternoon (it's a psychological thing to screw you up for the weekend with any bad news) and questions your tax return from 2 years ago. Been there....done that....was good and drunk so I looked and felt my best the day of the interrogation (see "Alices Restaurant") but I came with my CPA....a seasoned salt that knew how to attend such a meeting. His Executive secretary...who I married afterwards (SUSAN) was with him with all the red ropes and files that he thought necessary to have on hand.
When the IRS asked about Line#, my guy would wrinkle his brow, close his eyes while striking a thoughtful pose and ask Susan...."Susan, please find page 3 of the Federal Return for 1992." Susan would dig through her walking library of Turner Builders, locate the document in less time than it takes to type this sentence and hands it over.....to her boss. He looks over the document with a "harumph" this is good, but please also find the State of Georgia return for that year and let me have page 5." The shuffling of papers and time between each item while he prepared an official response to the reviewing Agent was tediously correct. Well studied; knows everything in the folders and where they are where he computes his answer while not allowing the Agent to review the documents that she brought. In the end, the inquiry by the Service was determined to be moot as the associated revenue was not part of the IRS's work papers....which left the question mark....along with interest and penalty accruing each moment.
This is the success of the CPA in being sure that the Service doesn't get the chance to mis-interpret what they may see as a huge error, omission or matter of fraud...if they have unfettered access to your financials. The same applies to having your financials in the cloud that will be quite apparent given the Cons.Mgt. producer's zeal in marketing and marking each page with a header or footing that has the name of the software provider; contact email and website.....so if you say..."those files must have burned up in the fire." They just obtain that notice to be served by the Marshall's and then waltz in with a writ to that provider to take what they want.
In some fashion...the same may apply to your drawings one day from an unhappy lawyer with an unequally unhappy client trying to pin all things on you. If you or your attorney tells the opposing side "I no longer have these physical files on site"....they just follow their nose to the paper stream from you with the name of the Cons.Mgmt. software and whup out the Subpoenas. The files that could be easily explained away for any problem that they may encounter....are now "Exhibits A-Z"
The facts are .... you may not be guilty of a damn thing. But someone else has your financials; calendar; estimates; email; General Ledger for how you run your building or construction business. If you're not a CPA and have some error by lack of experience....the IRS will find it and let you know of their suspicions. Guilty until you prove yourself innocent at $300+ an hour. The troubling thing is that the Stored File Act has a provision...like too many laws on the books all across the houses as well as state; regionally; by municipality that all have the innocent little line regarding enacting that particular law...."this law can be amended as necessary from time to time."
IN short....good laws that look benign at their first reading; votes to proceed and then put on the ballot and finally signed into the lawbooks....can be changed without ever seeing a voting booth again. Just like the Constitution and amendments....given some of the human involved interpretations of the "10 Commandments"....the laws change to fit an interpretation for good reasons, not so good reasons and less than altruistic reasons. The laws of the Cloud are being chiseled away with the same speed as the computing community that continually joins up and uploads all of their data.
It's worth a 2nd thought as to your exposure to liability, jeopardy and legal pursuit on the civil, criminal and a combo of the two via the Internal Revenue Service. The president of the Cons.Mgmt producer chose to ignore the answers that I had prepared and laughed off my questions with a big...."I just don't know." about the product that his company is producing. Which by all merit...he either does know, or should have known before putting his clients into an exposure to jeopardy.