Brad Smith Microsoft

The company says the government requesting customer and device user data stored around the world can cost companies billions in legal battles. Microsoft says tech companies have to weigh up when to say yes and when to say no, but there is no easy route either way.

Microsoft is participating in a hearing on Thursday at the US House Judiciary Committee, and the company has voiced its concerns about the way in which the United States government handled data requests from tech companies.

Redmond’s chief legal counsel, Brad Smith, in his written testimony has already said that a new system should be sought to avoid governments assuming they have the right to make tech companies access data held by customers.

He also adds that unless the United States government adopts an international law then tech companies stand to lose billions of dollars.

The Thursday meeting is meant to help the U.S. government decide what should be done when two or more separate countries make a data request. The focus will be on U.S. based companies who store data in the country and abroad, but Smith says the government needs to find an international law and not just rely on domestic rules.

Unless governments change course and adopt a new and more international approach, we risk confronting a conflict of law on steroids,” reads Smith’s testimony.

Microsoft is currently awaiting a litigation to defend itself in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals over a data request to access information held at an Ireland based datacenter. The U.S. government used a warrant to try to obtain the data, but Microsoft says the request should be made through mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT).

The problem arrives when one country requests data and a tech company is in a position where it may have to break United States law. For example, a new law in Brazil states tech companies must give up requested data, even if it is held in the U.S., something that tech giants say they should not have to do.

SOURCE: Judiciary House via ZDNET