Microsoft has been losing its battle to keep emails stored in other countries out of the hands of our increasingly intrusive Department of Justice. The DOJ is demanding e-mails stored in a database in Ireland for a criminal investigation. Much to the concern of privacy advocates and tech firms, a federal district judge had ruled that the DOJ could demand access to data in another country. The judge had stayed her order for Microsoft to appeal, which it was.
However, at the end of last week, due to various technical reasons, the judge lifted the stay. This doesn't mean Microsoft wasn't going to continue its appeal and it has refused to turn over the emails. As a result, Microsoft is right now technically defying the law.
While some tech sites are making a big deal of it, Techdirt thinks it's being blown out of proportion. It's a technical procedural issue, not some sort of act of great heroism from Microsoft standing up for the little guy.
Ars Technica explains it a little further. In order to properly have standing to appeal this particular ruling, Microsoft has to be found in contempt of the order to provide the data. That's why the judge lifted her say. As such, Microsoft's refusal to provide the data has prompted the Department of Justice to request the company to be found in contempt. If the court does so, then an appeal can move forward in the proper path. Complicated stuff. From Ars Technica:
Microsoft said its consumer trust is low in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations. Microsoft told Judge Loretta Preska in a filing that the "government's position in this case further erodes that trust and will ultimately erode the leadership of US technologies in the global market."
Verizon said (PDF) that a decision favoring the US would produce "dramatic conflict with foreign data protection laws." Apple and Cisco said (PDF) that the tech sector is put "at risk" of being sanctioned by foreign governments and that the US should seek cooperation with foreign nations via treaties, a position the US said was not practical.
All this international conflict, threat to security of tech firms, and effort to expand the reach of federal domestic law enforcement is to track down narcotics dealers, by the way.