Court Blocks Seizure of Microsoft-held Emails Stored Overseas
SAN JUAN – In a victory for privacy supporters, a federal appeals court has ruled that U.S. investigators cannot compel Microsoft to turn over customer emails stored on a server outside U.S. borders.
The information was provided by Foreign Policy. In a case decided last week by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, federal agents sought the email records of an individual implicated in a drug investigation whose email records were stored on a server in Ireland. The individual’s location was not revealed.
Microsoft, which has offices around the world, including Puerto Rico, argued that if compelled to turn over emails stored abroad, the company may face a deluge of similar requests — with dire privacy consequences. Chinese authorities, for example, could order the company to produce email records stored in the United States under similar legal reasoning, the company’s lawyers have argued.
In her ruling, Judge Susan Carney found that the Justice Department could not rely on the Stored Communications Act to require Microsoft to produce material stored overseas, and that a warrant for digital data turns on where that data are stored.
“Because the content subject to the warrant is located in, and would be seized from, the Dublin data center, the conduct that falls within the focus of the [Stored Communications Act] would occur outside the United States, regardless of the customer’s location and regardless of Microsoft’s home in the United States,” Carney wrote.
The case has been closely watched by Silicon Valley firms because it has huge implications for the government’s ability to compel companies to turn over information.