Obama administration maintains that entities operating in the United States are obliged to comply with warrants for data, even if it is stored overseas. As a result, a judge may hold the tech giant in contempt of court over its refusal to hand over information it stores abroad to the American government.
The judge gave Microsoft until August 5 to comply with an order which could shatter confidence in the cloud. Microsoft issued a statement and cited privacy concerns, promising to continue to defy the court order. The tech giant claimed it was not going to turn over the email.
Let us remind you that the American prosecutors investigating narcotic trafficking obtained a search warrant late last year to access an email account maintained by Microsoft servers in Ireland. Microsoft refused to comply, claiming that emails belong to its customers and that the servers are beyond the jurisdiction of the United States. This challenged the Obama administration’s belief that a company operating in the US has to comply anyway.
The US judge ruled two months ago that the tech giant must comply because Microsoft is a US company and controls the information. The judge suspended enforcement of the order pending an appeal by Microsoft. The judge said that the ruling was not appealable, but added that the company could obtain an appeal if it refused to comply and was found in contempt.
The tech giant said all sides agreed the case should and would go to appeal in order to find the appropriate procedure for that to happen. As a result, the government asked the judge to hold the company in contempt, which would lead to a “properly appealable final order”.
In the meantime, Microsoft explains that by handing over the requested information it would violate Irish legislation. Besides, that would have been another blow to public trust in tech giants’ ability to protect privacy.
The market leaders realize that this problem can harm them as well. This is why a range of other companies, including AT&T, Apple, Cisco Systems and Verizon, have filed court briefs supporting Microsoft. All of them worry they can lose billions of dollars in revenue to foreign rivals who would be perceived by the customers as better guardians of privacy.
It is known that the German government has told Microsoft it will avoid data storage with American companies until the recent ruling is overturned. Going into details, in seeking the emails the American authorities were looking to sidestep legal protections enshrined in the constitution’s 4th amendment, Microsoft claimed.
Earlier, trust in the cloud suffered a lot after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the surveillance of the US National Security Agency. Besides, the recent hacking of hundreds of celebrities’ nude photos has further damaged the industry’s position. In the meantime, it is unknown which government agency is requesting the emails stored in Ireland, because the warrant and all other documents are sealed and were not disclosed to the public.