Europe’s war on tech companies continues, with Microsoft’s Skype the latest in the firing line. The company has lost an appeal in Belgium and could now be forced to hand over data. Specifically, Microsoft will have to supply data to law enforcement agencies about suspects in a criminal investigation.
The Belgian court had initially mandated Microsoft to share message and call data, but the company refused. This is a subject Microsoft has been willing to go to war over in recent years. The company tackled the US government to protect data held in an Irish center.
It has never necessarily been about protecting criminals, but more the way governments abuse power and compromise privacy. In this particular case, Microsoft argued it had no obligation to hand message and call data as it is not a telecom company.
Under Belgian law, telecom operators are required to give authorities access to data. Despite Microsoft’s argument, an appeal court judge in Antwerp ruled Microsoft is considered a telecom company.
While most would disagree, the ruling means the company must provide access to data for suspects in a criminal investigation.
Microsoft had also pointed out that its Skype data is held in Luxembourg, where the communications platform is based. However, the judge said that is not the case and the data is stored in Belgium.
In addition, the court ordered Microsoft to pay a $36,000 fine. Microsoft seems to be digging its heels in and says it is considering further legal options. How much time the company has is unclear. However, the judge said Microsoft must open the data as soon as possible.
As I have consistently reported, Europe is clamping down on tech companies. The EU is notoriously strict on tech companies. This year has seen the Commission target companies that it believes are not complying with laws. Apple is in the midst of an ongoing tax wrangle over Irish breaks, while Google was recently handed a record fine of over $2 billion.
Microsoft has not been without its own problems in Europe. The Commission is currently holding a complaint against Microsoft from Kaspersky Lab. The Russian security company says Microsoft is holding back third-party anti-virus providers on Windows 10.