Back in 2014, a US court ordered Microsoft to hand over the e-mail and user data of someone the government had an interest in. The company complied but soon reached an impasse when some of the data was found to be stored in Ireland and Microsoft refused to bring that data over to the US. Since then, the US government and Microsoft have been hashing it out in court, with the government saying its laws and judicial demands apply everywhere around the world and Microsoft should comply.
Now, a new decision reached by the US Supreme Court, in an unrelated case, seems to bolster Microsoft’s stance against the extraterritoriality of US laws. As reported by PCWorld, the SCOTUS ruled that US laws do not apply overseas unless Congress explicitly states so in the law’s body.
Microsoft, which has previously been found in contempt of court for not complying with the US government, was quick to capitalize on this decision by the Supreme Court, and point out that the Electronics Communications Privacy Act, which is being used by the government against the company, does not apply outside of US borders.
The company has also repeatedly argued that the US government should pursue existing legal avenues to access the data it wants, such as going through the EU mechanisms for law enforcement and data transfer. The government has argued that following the law and international conventions would take too much time, despite Ireland’s government coming out in support of Microsoft and even offering to speed up evaluation of any request that the US government would make in this case.
The case between Microsoft and US government is moving very slowly, and will likely take a number of years to resolve, but its outcome is seen as a crucial precedent. If the US government manages to impose its legal framework over companies and data stored in other countries, this could have a chilling effect over the industry and continue to strain relations between the US and the rest of the world.