Microsoft ordered by U.S. judge to submit customer's emails from abroad

NEW YORK Thu Jul 31, 2014 1:33pm EDT

A shadow of a man using his mobile phone is cast near Microsoft logo at the 2014 Computex exhibition in Taipei June 4, 2014. Computex, the world's second largest computer show, runs from June 3 to 7. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

A shadow of a man using his mobile phone is cast near Microsoft logo at the 2014 Computex exhibition in Taipei June 4, 2014. Computex, the world's second largest computer show, runs from June 3 to 7.

Credit: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp must turn over a customer's emails and other account information stored in a data center in Ireland to the U.S. government, a judge ruled on Thursday, in a case that has drawn concern from privacy groups and major technology companies.

Microsoft and other U.S. companies had challenged the warrant, arguing it improperly extended the authority of federal prosecutors to seize customer information held in foreign countries.

Following a two-hour court hearing in New York, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska said a search warrant approved by a federal magistrate judge required the company to hand over any data it controlled, regardless of where it was stored.

"It is a question of control, not a question of the location of that information," Preska said.

The judge said she would temporarily suspend her order from taking effect to allow Microsoft to appeal her decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case appears to be the first in which a corporation has challenged a U.S. search warrant seeking data held abroad.

A number of technology companies filed court briefs in support of Microsoft's position, including AT&T Inc, Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and Verizon Communications Inc.

The companies are worried that they could lose billions of dollars in revenue to foreign competitors if customers fear their data is subject to seizure by U.S. investigators anywhere in the world.

Thursday ruling concerns a search warrant served on Microsoft by prosecutors for a customer whose emails are stored in a data center in Dublin, Ireland.

It is unclear which agency issued the warrant because the warrant and all related documents are sealed.

The technology companies argued that U.S. search warrants cannot be executed overseas under the law. But lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department said the warrant only required the company to provide documents it controls, just as U.S. banks can be forced to hand over transaction records held in foreign countries.

(Editing by Grant McCool)

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Comments (16)
Volcilord wrote:
I think the United States is painting itself into a corner with what it is demanding. This could be the end of the world wide web as each country insulates itself from all of the other countries of the world to protect the privacy of its citizens or keep outside influences out to protect their own authority.

Jul 31, 2014 3:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dd606 wrote:
“The companies are worried that they could lose billions of dollars in revenue to foreign competitors if customers fear their data is subject to seizure by U.S. investigators anywhere in the world.”

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So what, they’re worried they’re going to miss out on all that business from customers involved in organized crime and terrorism?

Jul 31, 2014 3:41pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ArghONaught wrote:
dd606, Most every OTHER country has privacy laws. This warrant appears to think the US government has the rights to over-ride foreign laws. Most governments are passing or have passed laws requiring data be stored “on shore” in their respective country for privacy and security reasons. If the US government persists, they will necessary refuse to award contracts to any US company. Get it yet?

Jul 31, 2014 4:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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