Microsoft tries to fight US government attempts to get data held on foreign soil, but fails
Microsoft has been told it must hand over information held at its Dublin, Ireland data centre to US law enforcement, despite a legal battle against the request.
It’s a landmark decision that shows information does not have to reside in America for it to be legally collected by the US government. US Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York said companies providing Internet services could not refuse valid search warrants for data held overseas.
The American government should not be tasked with having to coordinate with foreign states to collect data, said Judge Francis, according to Reuters: “The burden on the government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be seriously impeded,”
Microsoft, in a blog post that referenced its case, said it was “generally accepted that a US search warrant in the physical world can only be used to obtain materials that are within the territory of the United States”, pointing to various bilateral agreements establishing procedures for obtaining evidence in another country.
“We think the same rules should apply in the online world, but the government disagrees,” said David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft.
“To be clear, we respect the critical role law enforcement plays in protecting all of us. We’re not trying to frustrate any government investigations, and we believe the government should be able to obtain evidence necessary to investigate a possible crime.
“We just believe the government should have to follow the processes it has established for obtaining physical evidence outside the United States.”
There has been heightened tension over the US government’s access to people’s data across the world, thanks to the leaks of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Firms accused of colaborating with the NSA, including Microsoft and Google, have been on the PR offensive to clear their name of any wrongdoing, since customers have become increasingly concerned about the privacy of their information.
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