In a big privacy win, a federal appeals court has ruled that Microsoft and other tech companies do not have to turn over emails stored on servers outside the US. The victory comes in opposition to a 2014 lower court order which told Microsoft to follow a warrant to turn it over.
The contents of the customer’s email were on an Irish server, and Jude Susan Carney says, “The SCA warrant in this case may not lawfully be used to compel Microsoft to produce to the government the contents of a customer’s email account stored exclusively in Ireland.” A finding of contempt filed against Microsoft was also dismissed.
Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer, welcomed the decision. The ruling, he says, will ensure that countries have the ability to protect their own citizen’s privacy. It also confirms that the protections of the physical world apply to the digital one.
Most importantly, the decision “paves the way for better solutions to address both privacy and law enforcement needs.” Smith notes that during the process it became clear that new legal solutions are needed; ones that focus on the world of today and not three decades ago.
Changes like this would require Congress and the executive branch to collaborate to create domestic legislation and international treaties. Smith warns that this progress needs to start as soon as possible. The tech sector is happy to work with the government in a constructive way that protects their customer’s rights.
Microsoft’s continued fight against overzealous companies sets an important precedent. It shows that companies aren’t just willing to sit down and hand over data, and that fighting it can work. We can only hope that legislators will hear their objection and create further reform.