Microsoft refuses to give access to emails stored outside US

Microsoft has once again declined a US court order regarding the handing over of customer emails stored offshore, and will continue to fight the order.

A US district court had ordered Microsoft to hand over the email data stored in a datacenter in Ireland to the country's prosecutors on July 31. The same order was delayed by the judge to give Microsoft the time to appeal the decision till today.

Showing commitment to its stance on data privacy, Microsoft has declined to provide access to the email data and will appeal the decision. The company believes that such data requests from the US government could have major implications globally.

In a recent blog post, Microsoft announced that, "Your email belongs to you, not us" and has taken a bold step forward to bring this in action. Chief Judge Loretta Preska, who is looking over the case has given both parties time till September 5 to reach a decision.

Microsoft's decision to appeal the latest decision and continue to challenge the court order, has seen support from major technology firms such as AT&T, Apple, Cisco and Verizon.

Source: Reuters | Image: Microsoft Sign via Shutterstock

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23 Comments

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Shouldn't the subpoena go to the person who owns the email account? I can understand requesting the owner's name or IP addresses of an account if there is a legitimate reason to target someone e.g. terrorist, mafioso, etc. so a proper subpoena can be served. But I totally disagree with making the service provider responsible for turning over content it did not create and does not own. People, start encrypting everything. In fact, if you are a criminal, why are you using the cloud anyway?

Why oh why has not Microsoft gotten a European Judge to block the US Judge? After all, the US Judge is breaking European privacy laws... or is it?

Glad to see MS standing up to Team America World Police. Of course the NSA might already have the info and is just trying to fabricate an evidence trail that will actually be accepted in the courts rather than the illegal acts they use to intercept and capture data, so I appreciate MS fighting it any way they can and trying to expose them even more so.

Who knows, they're a corporation with limited liability. There might not yet be precedent for such a case, it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Well, to follow this would violate European law. I'd say they're better off saying the other laws around the world actually matter regarding data stored other places in the world. If no foreign privacy laws applied to any company from the US in their own land, the US would have no basis to do legal business anywhere else.
If the US stasi really wants this information they should go through the established international channels to request exceptions to privacy laws with the appropriate review and due process, instead of declaring US companies should ignore any other privacy laws that apply to their businesses stationed around the world.

The email belongs to the users, unless you mess with Microsoft. In which case they use it against you.

I think the point being made is don't mess with Microsoft.

Microsoft are in a lose/lose situation here. If the comply with the court, they break EU & Irish privacy laws. If they don't comply, they break US laws.

This is an international mess and it can only be resolved with all the countries getting together and sorting it out with treaties.

While I agree this is an international mess, treaties would be just about the worst possible way you could solve this. Politicians would just insist the treaty say that foreign countries must comply with each others warrants for data. And we certainly don't want that....

A court order is not law. Microsoft has the right to continue to fight the order all the way up to SCOTUS. When the US Supreme Court makes a final decision it's law, until the Congress passes a law superseding the decision, once signed by POTUS. The current do-nothing Congress is unlikely to do so, however.

The current law is that they have to hand it over on receipt of a court order. It makes no mention of where the data is, and that's what MS are fighting. But as it is, a new law isn't technically needed as the current one is valid (according to the judge). If MS refuse to hand it over, they break US law.

Lose/Lose no matter what they do, which is why they're fighting it. Don't be convinced it's in the interests of their users, because it isn't. They're fighting it to protect themselves in Europe.

They're not breaking U.S. laws because the U.S. doesn't have jurisdiction over data stored/housed in other countries. That's the whole point of the appeal.

Adam Reyher said,
Politicians would just insist the treaty say that foreign countries must comply with each others warrants for data. And we certainly don't want that....
Exactly, like when they wanted to "harmonize" patent laws.

> But as it is, a new law isn't technically needed as the current one is valid (according to the judge).

Judge's can't just make laws up as they see fit. The request to hand over information that is outside the jurisdiction of the person requesting it is meaningless. It's just a demand that, not a legal requirement.

However this is settled it's important to remember Microsoft's role here... they are the gatekeeper to a customer's data. They don't decide what the law is, they just comply to it, no matter what country it in. Whilst a trade exchange treaty would be bad, what Microsoft are currently doing is the best possible thing they could be doing. Specifically

1) not breaking international laws
2) not bending to the bullying tactics of the NSA
3) forcing countries to talk about how this works, and be open and transparent as possible.

All of which are in our favour.

US law has no basis over there. The only law they would be violating is a "law" here that says they need to break any other countrys' laws they are told to. It's not lose lose, it's just standing up for what's right and fight, or lose all integrity and roll over and violate the laws where the data actually resides. The US can't tell someone here to go and break a law in a foreign land, not with any moral or legal high ground. It's the same thing as saying "we establish a law where no other law applies to us outside our country". That doesn't mean squat outside that country.
It's also perhaps not lose-lose since the people here will actually stand with Microsoft on this one. Most of us are tired of the secret stasi nosying in on everything and causing all the problems they are supposed to be fighting. If US secret services hadn't trained and riled up Bin Laden and Mujahadeen in the first place... If they hadn't trained and armed those Isis soldiers... That's just what we know about too. It seems like almost every excuse for these secret spying comes from something they actually caused or had a lot more to do with than they were telling us. They're the ones that should be monitored not citizens trying to talk about kittens or sexting.

glen8 said,
it's about time we had a positive news story regarding Microsoft

Yeah, because just pumping out feel good nonsense would be wrong somehow right...lol

Is Microsoft the only one fighting? Or is anyone else coming out in support of this (more than a statement I mean)?