Thursday, 14 December, 2017

Supreme Court to consider major digital privacy case on Microsoft email storage

US-Microsoft Fight on Irish Server Heads to High Court Supreme Court to Decide if Data Stored Overseas Can Be Demanded with Warrants
Andrew Cummings | 17 October, 2017, 00:52

The Supreme Court disclosed in its order list released on Monday that it will take up the case, USA v. Microsoft, in which federal investigators sought data from Microsoft that was stored on servers in Ireland. Already, Google Inc. and Yahoo, acquired by Verizon Communications Inc., have stopped complying with search warrants for emails and other user data stored outside the country, the Justice Department said.

The technology case arose from a federal drug investigation. Microsoft challenged the warrant in 2014, arguing that prosecutors could not force it to hand over its customer's emails stored overseas. In a concurring opinion, Judge Gerard Lynch said the question was a close one, and he urged Congress to revise the 1986 law, which he said was badly outdated. An appeals court eventually ruled that Microsoft didn't have to supply the data to law enforcement.

"Hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes - ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud - are being or will be hampered by the government's inability to obtain electronic evidence", the brief said.

The case is part of the broader clash between the technology industry and the federal government in the digital age.

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We intend to share this view with the Supreme Court as it confronts this important issue.

In December 2013, the USA government issued a warrant in connection with an ongoing criminal narcotics investigation to seize data contained in an email account of a Microsoft customer. Microsoft successfully challenged the warrant, arguing that DOJ needed to pursue global data through a treaty process. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found against the Government on this issue. "They need do nothing more than falsely state a location outside the United States when signing up for an account". A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Microsoft, prompting the Department of Justice to seek Supreme Court review.

Microsoft points to past Supreme Court cases that say laws shouldn't be read to intrude on another country's sovereignty unless Congress clearly says that's its intent. Microsoft noted that it will continue to press the United States government for its use of the 1986 Communications Privacy Act in the case, which it believes "was never meant to reach within other countries' borders".

"If U.S. law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what's to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?"

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