Court upholds Microsoft victory in overseas email lawsuit

Dive Brief:

  • The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said Tuesday that it won’t reconsider a decision that prevents the Department of Justice from forcing Microsoft to turn over customer emails stored outside the U.S., Reuters reports.

  • In July, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned a decision that held Microsoft in contempt of court for not complying with a 2013 warrant that mandated the company release a drug trafficking case suspect’s email account data stored on a server in Ireland.

  • The Justice Department had argued that the government has the authority to get the data stored elsewhere since Microsoft is based in the U.S. But as part of Tuesday’s 4-4 vote, dissenters said it should not matter where the emails were stored because Microsoft is a U.S. company. In other words, the Stored Communications Act (SCA) does not apply to servers outside the U.S.

Dive Insight:

The DOJ is concerned that tech companies will simply duck warrants by moving customer data overseas. Judge Susan Carney acknowledged the concern, but said the SCA doesn’t allow worldwide search under a U.S. warrant none-the-less.

Advancements in technology have far outpaced the laws intended to regulate them. Part of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the SCA was implemented before the widespread advent of cloud computing. Since then, it has become more and more common for companies to store data around the world.  

Privacy advocates and tech companies that offer cloud computing applauded the latest decision. Throughout the course of the case, Amazon, Verizon Communications and Cisco Systems, in addition to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Software Alliance have filed legal briefs supporting Microsoft.

Filed Under: Cloud Computing
Top image credit: Wikimedia; Ben Franske