Fourth Amendment

U.S. Firms Dealt Another Blow by Order to Microsoft to Surrender Overseas Emails

|

Email
28 Dreams / Foter

If U.S. goverment officials really want to promote American business and give the economy a boost, forget the crony-tastic Export-Import Bank; they should just stop making services based here look like convenient extensions of snoopy government agencies. But that's not the tack they're following. Instead, Chief U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska ordered Microsoft to cough up emails stored in another country, chalking up another win for tech companies based anywhere else.

According to CNet's Charles Cooper:

A federal judge said Thursday that Microsoft can't prevent the US Department of Justice from obtaining emails stored in a data center overseas in a case that has raised concern among Internet privacy groups and technology companies.

Chief US District Judge Loretta Preska today ordered Microsoft to comply with a December warrant allowing the DOJ to obtain a customer's email-account data stored in Dublin, Ireland. The US government is seeking the emails in connection with a criminal investigation.

The case isn't over yet. Preska stayed her order while Microsoft takes it to the next level. The company's General Counsel Brad Smith commented, "We will appeal promptly and continue to advocate that people's email deserves strong privacy protection in the U.S. and around the world."

There's no doubt the company will continue to fight the government's effort to extract information from around the world using the company as a proxy—out of survival instinct if for no other reason. Communications companies elsewhere are already using the long reach of the United States government as a marketing point for services located outside of U.S. jurisdiction. After the National Security Agency scandal broke last year, Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation remarked, "Countries are competing to be the Cayman Islands of data privacy."

And yes, more than a few of these "data havens" are governed by officials every bit as intrusive as ours. International telecom Vodafone recently clarified just how snoopy many governments can be. But the U.S. is the country with the PR problem on the issue, whatever the worldwide reality.

Microsoft has a chance of winning this case. Just how the Fourth Amendment applies to data flowing around the globe is a matter that's still in flux. The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that the government's interpretation of search and seizure protections is bogus, and glosses over the inconvenient (for officials) reality that simply copying data from wherever it's stored is a seizure.

By continuing to treat U.S.-based services as wiretaps on the world, American officials hammer civil liberties at home, and hand a huge marketing win to companies overseas.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

12 responses to “U.S. Firms Dealt Another Blow by Order to Microsoft to Surrender Overseas Emails

  1. I wonder if this judge can do anything about Lois Lerner.

  2. There’s no doubt the company will continue to fight the government’s effort to extract information from around the world using the company as a proxy?out of survival instinct if for no other reason.

    Since we know that before the Snowden disclosures US companies were handing customer data over with no resistance, there is no other reason they’re fighting it now other than self-preservation.

  3. They’re just here to help.

  4. Libertopia can’t come soon enough. We can set up up all sorts of internet services to provide privacy to customers around the world. Email service, website hosting, file hosting, file sharing, search engines, and more. Tell courts and law enforcement around the world to go stuff it.

    1. yeah but who will make them go stuff it when they come with tanks and planes to snuff out freedom around the globe?

    2. I’m sure other nations will just sit back and watch if we become a haven for money laundering, child porn, and criminal organizations. In the context of reality, “Libertopia” doesn’t work the way you think it will.

      1. When moving funds is legal “laundering” money is impossible. Once most prohibition laws are rescended criminals will have nothing to organize. That frees up enormous law enforcement to investigate and prosecute real crime like child abuse.

        Libertopia works the way you think it won’t.

  5. Just how the Fourth Amendment applies to data flowing around the globe is a matter that’s still in flux.

    “The right of the people to be secure in the persons, houses, papers, and effe-” Forget it. I’m wasting my breath.

  6. In the past the Feds would just threaten to withhold some big IT contract. Then the targeted corporation would quietly comply.

  7. free nut punch fridays
    only at reason.com

  8. . The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that the government’s interpretation of search and seizure protections is bogus,

    Korporashuns aren’t people, man!

  9. Chief US District Judge Loretta Preska today ordered Microsoft to comply with a December warrant allowing the DOJ to obtain a customer’s email-account data stored in Dublin, Ireland.

    This is not really what I had in mind when I said open borders were a good thing.

    I suspect the U S Govt would gladly tell the Irish to pound sand if they issued a warrant for evidence pertaining to crimes committed in Ireland by an American on American soil.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.