Microsoft is fighting a US warrant for customer data stored overseas

Microsoft is a US-based company, but does that mean they're obligated to hand over data to the United Stated government, regardless of where it's located or who it belongs to? The company says no, and in court papers released on Monday, they argued that the government was significantly overstepping their bounds in issuing a warrant which required Microsoft to do so.

Microsoft building in Dublin, Ireland

The released papers detail objections raised by Microsoft lawyers to a ruling issued by a New York district court, which ordered the company to hand over customer emails which are stored in a datacenter overseas. The government says that by withholding sensitive information, Microsoft is impeding serious criminal investigations -- like the one the warrant was issued for, which is related to an ongoing narcotics case. But Microsoft fires back, saying that the warrant not only violates Microsoft's freedom of action, it nullifies international law.

The Government cannot seek and a court cannot issue a warrant allowing federal agents to break down the doors of Microsoft's Dublin facility. Likewise, the Government cannot conscript Microsoft to do what it has no authority itself to do -- i.e., execute a warranted search abroad.

Microsoft goes on to explain that they believe the warrant is in violation of the Constitution of the United States.

This interpretation not only blatantly rewrites the statute, it reads out of the Fourth Amendment the bedrock requirement that the government must specify the place to be searched with particularity, effectively amending the Constitution for searches of communications held digitally.

The case is still ongoing, and already Microsoft has seen several statements of support, including one from Verizon. While Microsoft's filing is based on precedent case law, the government's is based on a distinct interpretation of the statute they cited when issuing the warrant. The government's respose is expected some time in July, and it is not clear whether Microsoft's argument will make headway in court.

Source: CNETImage via Wikimedia

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13 Comments

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Drama and show, trying to put themselves in a good light. Most of these companies will just comply without telling their customers anyway, so nothing changes and it will be forever impossible to trust an american company. Simple as that. If anyone needed proof, this is it.

Grizzl said,
Drama and show, trying to put themselves in a good light. Most of these companies will just comply without telling their customers anyway, so nothing changes and it will be forever impossible to trust an american company. Simple as that. If anyone needed proof, this is it.

I think you should win some sort of award for that scientific and indisputable proof you are giving us all here

Or Microsoft is losing millions of dollars in revenue because of the US government pulling these pranks and are actually trying to do something about it.

What the US government is asking to MS is called ESPIONAGE.

And no, it is not about drugs. For drugs, Black Operatives are more than enough and they will do it anyways.

May not be legally obligated to give up the data, but depending on said data, they may be morally obligated to do so. Unfortunately, they will probably not told what that data is.

It doesn't matter, the US will just hack into the servers to get what they want in the end anyway. Sure this brings things like this to public attention for now, but it also means in the future the US government will just be doing it more covertly so we don't hear about it.

The data is related to an ongoing court case (as opposed to non-judicial areas, like intelligence or defense), so it isn't admissible if it's obtained via illegitimate means. The prosecution and investigators would want to avoid that, so the only real channel they have to obtain the data is to issue Microsoft a subpoena.

Jett Goldsmith said,
The data is related to an ongoing court case (as opposed to non-judicial areas, like intelligence or defense), so it isn't admissible if it's obtained via illegitimate means. The prosecution and investigators would want to avoid that, so the only real channel they have to obtain the data is to issue Microsoft a subpoena.

What the prosecutor, and the judge, should do is simply to request the data they are interested to investigate using the usual international channels commonly used in these situations.

Looks like Microsoft are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Face legal action from the US governments, or face legal action from the country they're handing data over from.

I'm sure the US government wouldn't be happy if China was requesting data to be handed over from the USA servers to them just because 'someone'.. 'authorised' it via a warrant.

i said lets Microsoft obey the US govt, so other non-US countries could milk more money from microsoft using legal means.

Then Microsoft could demand re-compensation from U.S govt, which will be paid using U.S taxpayer money.
Almost (?) everybody wins.

Torolol said,
i said lets Microsoft obey the US govt, so other non-US countries could milk more money from microsoft using legal means.

Then Microsoft could demand re-compensation from U.S govt, which will be paid using U.S taxpayer money.
Almost (?) everybody wins.

The problem is all those people who live in Europe and have hotmail and outlook accounts may reconsider if Microsoft is passing their data to a government that has no jurisdiction over them. But that's a minor issue compared to all the companies that use Microsoft services. If I was an information manager I would be very worried about this and consider moving the IT solutions to non-us ones.
The US government cannot compensate for loss customers and a bad reputation.

blackhove said,

The problem is all those people who live in Europe and have hotmail and outlook accounts may reconsider if Microsoft is passing their data to a government that has no jurisdiction over them. But that's a minor issue compared to all the companies that use Microsoft services. If I was an information manager I would be very worried about this and consider moving the IT solutions to non-us ones.
The US government cannot compensate for loss customers and a bad reputation.


That is exactly what companies do. Break their IT Datacenters up, and/or create different companies based in different countries.
At my last companie we used to have one datacenter in the US for US and Europe. We now broke it up into two. If we all had our mailboxes on the US servers, they could just come in with a warrant and access it all. Now they can't, as they have no jurisdiction in Europe. They have to get an international warrant and cooperate with the government for this to be allowed, which is a lot more difficult.