Microsoft says private data 'at risk' in court case

Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said a court order requiring the company to give US prosecutors data stored in Ireland coul
Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said a court order requiring the company to give US prosecutors data stored in Ireland could set a dangerous precedent, and invite other countries to take similar actions

Microsoft argued Monday in a court brief that an order requiring it to give US prosecutors data stored in Ireland could "put all of our private digital information at risk."

The brief with the US Court of Appeals in New York comes with prosecutors seeking customer emails in a narcotics probe, with the data stored in Microsoft servers in Ireland.

A lower court ruled that the US tech giant must hand over data sought in the probe, dismissing Microsoft's claims of "extraterritorial" authority.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said the case could set a dangerous precedent, and invite other countries to take similar actions.

"The filing begins by imagining how the US government might react if the shoe were on the other foot," Smith said in a blog post.

"For example, how would the Unites States react if a foreign government attempted to sidestep international law by demanding that a foreign company with offices in the United States produce the personal communications of an American journalist?"

Smith said that if the US prevails, "how can it complain if foreign agents require tech companies to download emails stored in the US? This is a question the Department of Justice hasn't yet addressed, much less answered."

In the court brief, Microsoft said, "The power to embark on unilateral law enforcement incursions into a foreign sovereign country—directly or indirectly—has profound foreign policy consequences. Worse still, it threatens the privacy of US citizens."

A ruling requiring Microsoft to turn over the data "would put all of our private digital information at risk, not just emails, but everything else we store on remote computers collectively called 'the cloud'—a veritable 'cache of sensitive personal information' saturated with the highest constitutional privacy rights."

Microsoft had argued that the court order was invalid. But prosecutors contended that it must comply with the order and US Magistrate Judge James Francis ruled in April that "it has long been the law that a subpoena requires the recipient to produce information in its possession... regardless of the location of that information."

The case comes amid rising concern about US surveillance following revelations of snooping disclosed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Leading tech firms, including Apple and Verizon, have filed briefs supporting Microsoft.

Smith said Microsoft "complies with lawful orders from US authorities" but that the government "should follow the processes it has established for itself for obtaining physical evidence outside the United States."

He added that "the warrant issued here cannot reach emails stored in Ireland, and as we argue in our brief, we believe the lower court's judgment should be reversed."

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© 2014 AFP

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Dec 08, 2014
If Microsoft comply, they may get a prosecution from the Irish authorities.
A technical means could be to have a two part key, with one part held by Microsoft and the other held by Irish authorities, and only when a suitable warrant is raised in Eireland that the data can be decrypted and used.

Dec 09, 2014
Ireland is Microsoft's european base. In these servers is stored all our european mail, for instance (hotmail)...
The US government can kiss our european .ss. Go play big bro elsewhere.

Dec 09, 2014
The logical step for Microsoft would be to pack up in the US and move their offices elsewhere. I'm pretty sure once a couple of major companies do this (Google, I'm looking at you) the US government will come to its senses.

Dec 09, 2014
Next they, microsoft, will store the data in China. US does not have enough divisions to invade and occupy China. Principle, when one starts to trust and allow multinational corporations to exist in one's country, the people of that country have no control over what those international outlaws do. Did I say 'outlaw'? Yes, because all those multinationals when they steal stuff away from the US, are OUT of the reach of the LAW! Best is to outlaw the multinationals from our soil. Any company, corpseoration or whatever that wants to be here and somewhere else had better make a decision to stay here and not go there, or lose what they have here to nationalization. One day some tea party will get some sense and make it so.

Dec 09, 2014
Any international transaction in the world is currently based in dollars. Therefore, the USA empire decrees it has a right to steal any information on the planet because ultimately any transaction can be linked to a USA dollar. Solution is to abandon SWIFT system

Dec 13, 2014
Seems to me that the cloud was quickly contrived to justify the existence of personal information "out there", which information was already being clandestinely gleaned and stored surreptitiously, the legality of which occupied a grey area, and which fact was potential fodder for devastating class-action law suits that would have crippled MS and others.

Dec 15, 2014
Basically, a US court has ordered MS to break the law in Ireland.
This is the epitome of a lawless culture.

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