Microsoft has been asked to give all its customers’ email addresses that were stores on servers located in Ireland. The data must be handed to the US government. This was the decision take by an US judge in the 31st of July 2014, in a case that has created lots of concern among privacy groups as well as important technology enterprises.
Microsoft and some other US based companies were not very pleased when the state prosecutors asked them to hand in the information they has on their customers and which was stored in other countries. The companies claimed that the prosecutors had no right to act as they did and therefore they had taken legal action. However, the US judge Loretta Preska decided that the prosecutors’ warrant corresponded with the laws in force and it gave the legal representatives to right to ask for any data, regardless its storage space.
The judge declare that she would suspend her legal order for a short period of time in order to give Microsoft the chance to make its appeal at the second Circuit Court of Apples belonging to the US. This seems to be the first case in which a company has actually challenges a search warrant emitted by the US authorities.
The entire event took place by having in the background the heated debate on privacy and technology started last year. The entire scandal began when Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency, made public the US government efforts to gather information about consumers.
Companies like Apple, Verizon or Cisco as well as the privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation have also send court brief in which they expressed their support and solidarity with Microsoft. All these companies are afraid that they would lose their customers and revenues in favor of foreign competitors. The clients might be driven away if they know that their data can be accessed by US investigators no matter where the data is stored. Brad Smith, the general counsel of Microsoft, declared that the company would definitely make an appeal.
The 31st of July ruling referred to a warrant which was used by the New York prosecutors to search the email addresses stored by Microsoft in Dublin. In April, the warrant was declared as being valid by an US magistrate. It is still unclear why the authorities needed the information on emails. Important US companies like IBM, Microsoft, Cisco and HP said that the entire Snowden affair had caused them profit loses because of the sales decrease on the Chinese territory.
European carriers like Deutsche Telekom or Orange began to pitch local information storage possibilities immediately after the Snowden leaks. While lots of companies, either small or big have tried hard to capitalize.
In the month of August 2013, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said that the Snowden affair might cost the American computing industry between twenty-two and thirty-five billion US dollars.
The Supreme Court of the United Stated of America ruled in the month of June that officers working for the police needed a warrant in order to search a suspect’s mobile phone. Numerous American judges were faced with the difficult situation of deciding if prosecutors could use warrants to search email addresses from various providers.
Craig Newman, one of the numerous lawyers interested in the legal aspects concerning the privacy issues, declared that the problem was very far from being solved. The lawyer, who is not at all involved in the case, said that the traditional notions of fourth amendment, search and seizure did not fit very well with the digital world.
The Microsoft lawyer, Joshua Rosenkranz, has said in front of the court that the law does not allow warranted to be put into force in other countries and labelled the request as being a bid for extraordinary power. On the other hand, Serrin Turner, one of the prosecutors working for the office of Preet Bharara in Manhattan, said that their warrant did not gave them the power to perform a search inside Microsoft’s Irish offices. It gave them the right to ask Microsoft to hand over the requested documents. Preska also said that many US based banks had been asked for a long time to offer their records in case of subpoenas. They were required to do so even if the data was stored in another country.
Joshua Rosenkranz asked the court and the prosecutors what would happen if foreign governments decided to look for data concerning their citizens on the US territory on the basis of some warrants issued by their countries. Preska acknowledged that a scenario as such was scary but she said that she could not take into consideration the possible actions of a country when the interpretation of the law was involved.