Supreme Court to consider major digital privacy case on Microsoft email storage

Microsoft Email-Access Fight With US Gets Supreme Court Review

The current state of the law doesn't mean that USA law enforcement has no access to data stored on foreign servers.

The justices will hear the Trump administration's appeal of a lower court's ruling past year preventing federal prosecutors from obtaining emails stored in Microsoft computer servers in Dublin, Ireland in a drug trafficking investigation. Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, said in a blog post on Monday.

The Supreme Court will review whether U.S. law enforcement can use search warrants on emails outside the United States, in a case with massive implications for US-based megacorporations that serve countries across the world. His lawyers said that because the United States was not engaged in "hostilities" with al Qaeda, the militant Islamist group that carried out the bombing, at the time of the attack, his acts were not crimes of war.

The unidentified person at the center of the Supreme Court case registered for his account as a resident of Ireland, according to one of the lower court opinions.

A ruling in the DOJ's favor could dissuade customers from using cloud services.




Rulings in both cases are due by the end of June.

In the underlying case, the government in 2013 sought a warrant requiring information about a Microsoft email account that prosecutors believed was being used for narcotics trafficking. "We will continue to press our case in court that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)-a law enacted decades before there was such a thing as cloud computing-was never meant to reach within other countries' borders".

The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that the alleged mastermind of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 US sailors should face a trial by a military commission. The tech giant says this legislation will provide more "sensible ways" for the government to access data stored across borders, including a "lengthy legal process" in order to access the emails of Americans. In asking the Supreme Court to consider the case, the Justice Department argued that "hundreds if not thousands" of investigations into terrorism and child pornography "are being or will be hampered by the government's inability to obtain electronic evidence". Officials obtained a search warrant, but Microsoft refused to turn over the information, taking the matter to court instead.

The Justice Department says the logic behind the appeals court decision would apply even if the account holder were a USA citizen living and committing crimes in this country.

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