In 2013, a district court from New York issued a warrant to Microsoft. The warrant demanded that the company supplied the e-mails along with additional information of one of its customers.
Microsoft partially complied by giving the New York district court, all of the non-content information it could, along with some metadata regarding their customer.
The company, however, did not supply any actual e-mails. Their argument was that since the e-mails were stored on a server in Ireland, and were thus out of the jurisdiction of the United States Justice Department, they were protected from any warrant issued by the United States.
The lawsuit between the United States Government and Microsoft has been ongoing since then. The company appealed for the Second Circuit.
Microsoft v The United States Government
The federal court ruling on Thursday, July 14th, resulted in Microsoft finally winning the lawsuit. The final ruling of the United States Court of Appeals was that data not stored within the United States is outside of its jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, the government will appeal the case further, trying to get it to the attention of the Supreme Court.
Microsoft’s efforts to maintain user privacy against governments has definitely not gone unnoticed. The company’s case received public support from a great number of companies and industries in the United States, including Amazon, the American Civil Liberties Union, Apple, CNN, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the Washington Post. Internationally, Microsoft Corp. received open support from civil liberties organizations and European Governments.
The Irish Government accused the United States Department of Justice of attempting to circumvent Ireland’s sovereignty.
However, in April of this year, the Supreme Court approved changes to Rule 41. The changes intend to extend the reach and access of the United States government to online information and make the location of the storage irrelevant. A judge could issue warrants for electronic data even if the data were not stored in the judge’s county.
The ruling of the Second Circuit decided that the extension of Rule 41’s reach does not expand outside of the territory of the United States. Judge Susan Carney stated that the United States government does not have the liberty to seize or retrieve any materials beyond the borders of the United States.
In order to combat, Microsoft’s well-deserved victory, the United States government may push for laws that force the localization of data storage
Currently, a large pool of well-known companies have servers outside of United States borders and jurisdiction. The popular choice of Ireland as a server bank is due to the country’s climate, saving expenses on cooling, and tax laws, allowing for cost-efficient storage.
Microsoft is currently also suing the United States Justice Department. The company is currently legally bound to not inform its customers when the government demands access to their data.
Photograph Courtesy of Flickr.