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You are here: Home / Cloud Computing / Microsoft Ruling Raises Privacy Concern
Ruling Against Microsoft Raises E-Mail Privacy Concern
Ruling Against Microsoft Raises E-Mail Privacy Concern
By Dan Heilman / NewsFactor Network Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
Microsoft has been ordered to hand over e-mails to law enforcers in the United States as part of a criminal investigation.

Although details of the investigation haven't been disclosed, it's a setback for the software giant, which was fighting a U.S. government warrant demanding access to e-mails stored in Microsoft's Dublin, Ireland-based data center.

U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said Microsoft must hand over the data, despite the fact that it's stored outside of U.S. jurisdiction. The order won't go into effect right away, though, meaning that Microsoft has time to appeal to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

When we reached Hanni Fakhoury, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, he called Preska's decision "a dangerous ruling," adding that it could lead to more far-ranging requests by authorities in other countries.

"These countries were supposed to have statutory protection regarding their e-mails," Fakhoury said. "It seems like the law is being rewritten on the fly."

Jurisdiction Issues

Last year during a drug investigation, the U.S. government had applied for a search warrant for e-mails belonging to a user of Microsoft's e-mail service. Microsoft refused, saying the U.S. couldn't issue a search warrant outside its jurisdiction and that it should instead seek the data via its mutual legal assistance treaty with Ireland.

Microsoft had appealed a magistrate's ruling in April that it must turn over the data. In upholding that decision, Preska agreed that the pertinent question was over control of the data, not the location of it.

In arguing the ruling, Microsoft appeals to its right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Power Grab?

Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft, said this week in a blog post that the court's decision "(will) not represent the final step in this process....We will appeal promptly and continue to advocate that people's email deserves strong privacy protection in the US and around the world."

During the hearing, Microsoft said the law does not permit warrants to be executed overseas, classifying the bid for Microsoft's customer e-mails a grab at "extraordinary power."

The ruling comes at a time when U.S. courts are wrestling with the issue of privacy concerns around personal data. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that police officers need a warrant to search an arrested suspect's cellphone, noting that the data on mobile devices is regarded as personal property.

Judges have been divided on the issue of what role search warrants should play when prosecutors want to seize e-mails from providers.

Microsoft was supported in the court case by AT&T, Verizon and other wireless providers. It also has the backing of Apple, Cisco, Verizon and other tech companies.

If Microsoft loses its appeal, those and other tech giants could be forced to hand over customer data stored overseas.

"Those companies have stated that they're worried about data they have stored abroad," Fakhoury said.

Read more on: Microsoft, Data Privacy, EFF
Tell Us What You Think


Keith Alexinder:
Posted: 2014-09-04 @ 4:11pm PT
I know many people are watching this with thin-eyes, how Microsoft (along with others) has been in bed with NSA and breached into email accounts, claiming necessity.

This os also going to help shape the cloud/hosted app market into more regional players than global monopolies.

European with integrity:
Posted: 2014-08-27 @ 9:03am PT
US impresses us Europeans again with gorilla logic that makes us take our business elsewhere, where our privacy is protected and respected. And we are taking ALL of our money with us.

Posted: 2014-08-02 @ 7:17am PT
Here's an answer...And I doubt Microsoft would want to use it, so capable are they in the manufacture of their computers, but there is legal precedent for not revealing the contents of emails...

Just ask the IRS, EPA and sundry other government organizations and agencies who "lost" their emails, and the machines and hard drives were destroyed...perhaps THEY can assist Microsoft.

Excuse me, Judge Preska (and the lower court judge), but the 4th Amendment does INDEED point to "location" of--and is NOT about who "controls"--the information of a private citizen...the 4th points to and protects an individual American--not a corporation nor government agency--a citizen who is the resulting victim and whose rights are or were being violated.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, HOUSES, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and SEIZURES, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the PLACE to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized...."

So how did the so-called "warrant" define or PARTICULARLY describe the "place" (or "people") where all these emails existed? did it say "all of Ireland?" "someone's bungalow in Shannon?" the "internet cloud over Ireland?" did it cite ALL known senders and recipients of the emails? (must have been a long list of culpable people--probably a few hundred pages in length...)

What it DOESN"T say is:

"The right of corporations and agencies to be secure in their papers and effects, and the controls placed upon those papers and effects against unreasonable searches, shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, and supported by oath or affirmation particularly describing the place, and the persons, and the things (as an extension of the person) to be seized"

Every sender & receiver of every email that Microsoft houses (not controls) thus has legal standing in a counter-complaint, and/or appeal. Or--as in the NSA concern--prove that each sender/receiver has, or will, commit a crime in order to support "probable cause" ---AS WELL AS THE DELIVERY OF UNLIMITED--EVEN UNNECESSARY--DATA FOR AN AGENCY'S' USE AGAINST US

C'mon Preska, have your Plaintiff show us the culprit that this "reasonable" warrant supposedly seeks to uncover...or are ALL of us culpable?? It's either one or the other--not both.

Allowing this case to go forward places an American citizen in a place where they cannot even hide legally from the prying eyes of their government...USA is now too rigid to even live in. Thanks Judge--I'm surprised you made it this far as a judge...

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