Microsoft has lost a battle for data privacy with US courts, but the fight is not over

Microsoft has taken a firm stance on government requests for data. They have said multiple times that they will fight all government requests that they feel are objectionable and will not simply hand over data because a government agency has requested it.

In a ruling issued today, Microsoft has been ordered to turn over customer emails that are stored in a data center in Ireland to the US government. The judge ruled that because Microsoft controls the data, that they should be required to turn over the information. Microsoft argued that since the content is stored on foreign soil, that the warrant for the information was invalid. 

Even though Microsoft lost this round, the judge who made the ruling temporarily suspended her own order from taking affect so that Microsoft could appeal to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals. This means that Microsoft still has a chance to protect the emails and not turn them over to the government if they are able to successfully appeal the ruling.

This case has far bigger implications than simply turning over the email. If Microsoft is forced to turn over data, no matter where it is stored, it could do serious harm to its cloud based services as foreign entities may not want to use the service as their data will be at susceptible to US government warrants. Seeing that Microsoft's bottom line is now made up by a healthy portion of cloud based services, these court cases could have significant impact on the company's growth potential in this sector.

Of course, Microsoft would not be alone in this as Amazon and Google would be in a similar situation as well. So, for the entire cloud industry, this court case is of high importance .

Source: Guardian

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I'd be interested to hear the European Commission's views on European data being handed over to foreign governments. I can't imagine they are content with that kind of action. Is the individual an EU or US resident/citizen?

Silly silly silly. America should have ZERO juistriction over Ireland. If this warrant goes ahead, then its a sad day for everyone. If Ireland issues the warrant, then its ok, but for America doing it, its bloody stupid and a waste to even put though the courts.

Actually more and more country ask for storing their citizen datas on local servers. That started first with the Snowden disclosure, but some of those coiuntry have also other interests - to control better their citizens infos.
Big company like Microsoft, Google an others can have problems being at the middle in this affair. Also more specific to this article I just wonder if Microsoft Ireland is not actually an irish company - even if it;s 100% controled by Microsoft US. Because in that case it's a big problem - US laws cannot be applied to a foreign company.

And people were blaming Russia and China for being rough against Apple and Microsoft.
His data was outside the US and they still can have it! Any government in the world should reconsider their relation with US companies.

Please - as if Russia's recent ruling REQUIRING that services (especially cloud services) offered (not merely sold) to Russian citizens use Russia-based servers. (The reason why "offered" - not "sold" - is used in the basic law is because some cloud services are given away, as opposed to being sold.) It's not merely for the "benefit" of the Russian economy - though it WOULD benefit; Russian internal-security laws are harsh, and getting harsher - what do YOU think has inspired not just the United States, but other nations as well, to adopt tactics that originate with the old KGB?

"Cloud" will soon be a swear word for any company with trade secrets they don't want to share with the US government and big American corporations.

Just buy a bloody rack, put some servers in - not that terribly hard.

It's all for National Security. You all don't want another 9/11, do you? Pre-empting terrorist or would be-terrorist is better than the lost of lives. Who cares about the economy or privacy. Taking out those pesky terrorist is to save lives!!!! Less sorrow and less heartaches. More happiness when you know your family is SAFE from harm.

I don't understand this judge's ruling. What do they want this data for? If it is solely for the purpose of a criminal investigation I agree it's okay, but if this is simply just snooping or gaining insights then Microsoft should have all right to decline that.

j2006 said,
I don't understand this judge's ruling. What do they want this data for? If it is solely for the purpose of a criminal investigation I agree it's okay, but if this is simply just snooping or gaining insights then Microsoft should have all right to decline that.
It's a criminal investigation. They sent a subpoena for them to MS, and MS is fighting it.

Maybe someone can enlighten me, but what's the significance of these particular email addresses that are stored in Ireland?

Kaze23 said,
Maybe someone can enlighten me, but what's the significance of these particular email addresses that are stored in Ireland?

No idea but the crucial matter here is jurisdiction: if a business, as well as individuals, are abroad they must comply with local laws and regulations. A letter rogatory is the legal tool to obtain information from a foreign Country, you cannot send the Marshals to handle matters.

my previous comments are confirmed. Microsoft fights for their user's privacy. google sells to the highest bidder.

This is just one more step toward tyrannical government. If you give up freedom for the sake of security you lose both and deserve neither. Government fears the citizens. The result is the drive to disarm citizenry and demand that every bit of their lives be opened up for scrutiny. Of course, the "sensible" case they make is that in order to keep us safe they MUST do all this. The problem is, we were safe when we could defend OURSELVES. This is just a sickening trend.

Robert.E.Wade said,
This is just one more step toward tyrannical government. If you give up freedom for the sake of security you lose both and deserve neither. Government fears the citizens. The result is the drive to disarm citizenry and demand that every bit of their lives be opened up for scrutiny. Of course, the "sensible" case they make is that in order to keep us safe they MUST do all this. The problem is, we were safe when we could defend OURSELVES. This is just a sickening trend.

"This is just one more step toward tyrannical government"

We're very near that already! There's WAY to much government in our society already and has been for quite some time.

Stop misquoting it.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

Completely changes the meaning.

How can a judge who has zero understanding of technology, is biased, under huge amounts of pressure from the govt to rule in their favor or lose their job, allowed to rule on issues like this?

This kind of thing needs to be decided by actual experts from academia with high IQs and no vested interests.

I hope they fight this ruling.

Defcon said,
How can a judge who has zero understanding of technology, is biased, under huge amounts of pressure from the govt to rule in their favor or lose their job, allowed to rule on issues like this?

This kind of thing needs to be decided by actual experts from academia with high IQs and no vested interests.

I hope they fight this ruling.

Judges don't lose their jobs if they rule against the gov't.
And having a Tech Degree doesn't make a difference here either. This case could just as easily be about MS storing Postcards in Ireland and being ordered to hand them over.

Also, Academics, and "Experts" are going to have their own biases.. In fact they are often really biased. I'm not sure I'd want a bunch of researchers, who aren't grounded in reality, making runnings on any laws

Some pretty scary implications for everybody if they lose the appeal, sets an ugly precedent, hopefully MS's army of lawyers can salvage this.

the fact she stayed the order makes it sound like she wasn't pleased with her own ruling. (Judges are supposed to do their job even if they don't like the outcome, except for the Supreme Court).

I wonder if this case will make it all the way to the supreme court; any ruling here will set a huge precedence for future warrants.

bdsams said,
I wonder if this case will make it all the way to the supreme court; any ruling here will set a huge precedence for future warrants.

I bet it will although I am not betting about the outcome; and yes, as others have pointed out the potential implications of the ruling are devastating for US companies.

Rosyna said,
the fact she stayed the order makes it sound like she wasn't pleased with her own ruling. (Judges are supposed to do their job even if they don't like the outcome, except for the Supreme Court).
That's not always the case. Given the fact that she knew Microsoft would appeal to a higher court, it's not uncommon to stay a judgement until that time. You generally don't see this as much in Criminal courts, but in civil courts and the like it's quite common.

I don't think that The US Government really understands how damaging this is to the US IT sector. At this point most businesses outside of the US will have to question their relationship to any US based company. That includes Apple and Google as well. We among a number of other companies use Google's indexing appliance to manage and publish our various websites to Google's search engine. It is going to be damaging if many businesses have to withdraw that support as well as use of services and technologies like Chrome and Safari which index and catalog search requests to Google and Apple respectively. Not only will this apply to IT, but this applies to any requested data about software and services that non US based companies use if statistics or data is gathered about them or their data is stored in "the cloud" by a US based company. Its really a devastating blow. I would expect a ton of Operating Systems and services to pop up in countries where they just purchased US based software. Dark times are ahead if this ruling is not overturned on appeal.

Drewidian said,
I don't think that The US Government really understands how damaging this is to the US IT sector. At this point most businesses outside of the US will have to question their relationship to any US based company. That includes Apple and Google as well. We among a number of other companies use Google's indexing appliance to manage and publish our various websites to Google's search engine. It is going to be damaging if many businesses have to withdraw that support as well as use of services and technologies like Chrome and Safari which index and catalog search requests to Google and Apple respectively. Not only will this apply to IT, but this applies to any requested data about software and services that non US based companies use if statistics or data is gathered about them or their data is stored in "the cloud" by a US based company. Its really a devastating blow. I would expect a ton of Operating Systems and services to pop up in countries where they just purchased US based software. Dark times are ahead if this ruling is not overturned on appeal.

the courts don't rule on what's good for one person or another. they vote on constitutional rights and the nuances of contract law.

As much as I am a Constitutionalist, this is much more than a nuance in contract law, they need to consider international law. Europe is quite clear in their laws what is expected to happen here. I'm not 100% up to speed but I do believe a multi-national corporation is expected to obey the laws of the host nation when they operate a business in that country. The same applies here. I'm sure there is plenty of precedent for this already as none of this new except that the data is virtual now instead of physical.

The U.S. Constitution is not the only legal document at play here. We have treaties and trade law that deal specifically with these issues. None of this is really new.

The one thing that is not clear in anything I read is whether this is data is for a U.S. citizen or not. That greatly changes the legal argument.

Either way, 200 years of trade and multinational/international businesses required laws and treaties to deal with these questions. Those same laws need to be applied here.

Nothing is different other than the bits can be instantly transferred overseas and that ease of transfer does not change the intent or nature of the law. Doing otherwise is not acting in good faith in executing the law.