US Supreme Court to review Microsoft's legal battle over foreign servers

It has been over three years since a US district court ordered Microsoft to hand over emails and other data stored overseas of one of its foreign customers, to which the company refused. With many ups and downs over the years regarding the case, it all escalated a few months ago, when it was revealed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) wanted the Supreme Court to reconsider the original decision, which was in favor of the tech giant. Today, according to Microsoft's official statement, the Supreme Court has finally issued a response, announcing that it will be hearing the petition filed by the DOJ sometime in the next year.

The Redmond-based company has held a solid stance against the release of personal overseas data since this issue initially arose. It has remained adamant, from the beginning of this litigation, that continued reliance on the Stored Communications Act (SCA) is insufficient to protect people's rights. Notably, in July 2016, a Court of Appeals reversed the initial ruling of 2014, stating that the SCA did not apply to communications stored overseas. Obviously, this reversal is to be scrutinized after the Supreme Court's decision to review the case.

In any case, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, believes that this law is not relevant in today's world. To that effect, he noted:

The current law, ECPA, was enacted in 1986 when the World Wide Web was still a few years away from being invented and no one conceived of conducting most work and personal business online. A world connected by cloud services simply didn’t exist. The ways in which we communicate have radically changed over the past three decades — but the laws governing those communications haven’t. Current laws don’t adequately support the needs of law enforcement anywhere in the world or protect our rights.

Smith also mentioned that the current laws in place apply to the "era of the floppy disk, not the world of the cloud." It has been made abundantly clear by Microsoft that it wants the Congress to pass new legislation to provide better security for cross-border data.

The significance of this case with regards to future access to overseas data means that it cannot be dealt with lightly. A ruling against Microsoft could possibly induce massive legal ramifications, affecting US-based tech companies around the world.

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