Judge: U.S. Search Warrants Apply to Emails Stored on Foreign Servers

A district court judge ruled Thursday that Microsoft must comply with law-enforcement demands even for user data stored on servers in Ireland.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
July 31, 2014, 12:30 p.m.

A fed­er­al judge ruled Thursday that U.S. law-en­force­ment au­thor­it­ies can force Mi­crosoft to hand over emails that are stored on serv­ers in Ire­land.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Lor­etta Preska said that Mi­crosoft must com­ply with search war­rants even when the data in ques­tion is hos­ted abroad, ac­cord­ing to re­ports from the As­so­ci­ated Press.

Preska reasoned that the loc­a­tion of the data is ir­rel­ev­ant when con­sid­er­ing who owns that data—in this case, a U.S.-based cor­por­a­tion.

Lor­etta stayed her rul­ing, mean­ing it will not go in­to ef­fect un­til Mi­crosoft can ap­peal. The com­pany quickly prom­ised it would do so.

“The only is­sue that was cer­tain this morn­ing was that the Dis­trict Court’s de­cision would not rep­res­ent the fi­nal step in this pro­cess,” said Brad Smith, Mi­crosoft gen­er­al coun­sel and ex­ec­ut­ive vice pres­id­ent. “We will ap­peal promptly and con­tin­ue to ad­voc­ate that people’s email de­serves strong pri­vacy pro­tec­tion in the U.S. and around the world.”

A bevy of tech­no­logy com­pan­ies, in­clud­ing Apple, Ve­r­i­zon, and AT&T, and a num­ber of open-In­ter­net groups joined Mi­crosoft in ar­guing that private email con­tents should be off-lim­its to law en­force­ment if the data is stored abroad.

“The fun­da­ment­al flaw in the court’s ana­lys­is is that a cus­tom­er’s stored emails are the busi­ness re­cords of Mi­crosoft. They’re not,” said James De­mp­sey, seni­or coun­sel with the Cen­ter for Demo­cracy and Trans­par­ency. “They are the prop­erty of the sub­scriber, and the U.S. gov­ern­ment should not be able to force Mi­crosoft or any­one else to per­form a search and seizure in an­oth­er coun­try.”

AT&T said it was “ex­tremely dis­ap­poin­ted” with the court’s de­cision and would sup­port Mi­crosoft’s ap­peal.

The Elec­tron­ic Com­mu­nic­a­tions Pri­vacy Act, passed in 1986, does not ex­pli­citly ad­dress wheth­er law en­force­ment can re­quire a U.S. com­mu­nic­a­tions pro­vider to hand over data stored bey­ond Amer­ic­an soil. That am­bi­gu­ity promp­ted lit­ig­a­tion when the South­ern Dis­trict of New York sent a search war­rant to Mi­crosoft ask­ing for the con­tent of an ac­count con­nec­ted to a data cen­ter in Dub­lin, Ire­land, where the com­pany has kept some email data since 2010.

Mi­crosoft ar­gued that the gov­ern­ment was ex­tend­ing its au­thor­ity in­to oth­er coun­tries by al­low­ing war­rants to ap­ply to data held over­seas, and warned that such a pre­ced­ent could make U.S. in­form­a­tion more ap­peal­ing and vul­ner­able to for­eign gov­ern­ments, such as China.

What We're Following See More »
BUT IS HE A YES VOTE?
Cornyn Attempting to Get McCain Back for Health Vote
7 minutes ago
THE LATEST
“TIME HAD RUN OUT” FOR ILL BABY
Charlie Gard’s Parents End Legal Fight
31 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court 'time had run out' for the baby. Mr. Gard said it meant his 'sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy' will not reach his first birthday on 4 August. 'To let our beautiful little Charlie go' is 'the hardest thing we'll ever have to do,' his mother said. Charlie's parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.

Source:
AGENCY SOUGHT TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION
11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Rule
33 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"Eleven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its June decision to delay implementation of a chemical safety rule" until 2019. "The state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman (D), argue the rule is important for 'protecting our workers, first-responders and communities from chemical accidents' and should be allowed to take affect as planned by the Obama administration’s EPA.

Source:
ULTIMATUM ON ACA
Trump: You’re With Us Or Against Us
51 minutes ago
THE LATEST
$1.6 BILLION SET ASIDE FOR WALL
House Freedom Caucus Chair: Shutdown Over Wall Funding Unlikely
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Monday said that funding for President Trump's controversial border wall is unlikely to cause a government shutdown. 'The odds of a government shutdown are very minimal when it comes to that,' the conservative lawmaker said at an event in Washington, D.C. 'I do think the funding of the border wall will happen,' he added. Appropriators have set aside $1.6 billion to fund new wall and fencing sections on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border covering a few dozen miles."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login