In a legal battle that has brought an all-important question about privacy to the forefront, Microsoft has procured another win against the US government courtesy of the US Court of Appeals. The case filed in August 2014 has seen its highs and lows and is making people think about the boundaries of privacy and the extent to which a government is allowed to peer into the digital life of its citizens.
The company had previously won an appeal in the case back in July 2016, overturning a previous verdict from August 2014. To refresh your memory, the government asked Microsoft to hand over some emails stored in Ireland for an ongoing narcotics investigation, but the company did not comply, citing its duty to protect the data of its customers overseas.
It was, however, not a clear victory as the vote was split 4-4. The decision might have been in favor of the corporation, but this might not be the end of this case just yet.
Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes, in dissent, wrote:
"The panel majority's decision does not serve any serious, legitimate, or substantial privacy interest... It has substantially burdened the government's legitimate law enforcement efforts; created a roadmap for the facilitation of criminal activity; and impeded programs to protect the national security of the United States and its allies,"
The dissenting judges have also called on the US Supreme Court and the Congress to revaluate the case. According to the Stored Communications Act, a 1986 US law, emails stored outside US territory are beyond the reach of domestic search warrants. This has allowed the company some breathing room so far, but there's still a long road ahead. This case has already garnered a lot of attention, especially from notable tech corporations such as Amazon, Verizon, and Apple, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
While the U.S. Department of Justice are "reviewing the decision and its multiple dissenting opinions and considering our options.", Microsoft has not made any comments as of yet. You can read more about the verdict here.