Published: Wed, January 25, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jose Becker

Microsoft victory in overseas email seizure case is upheld

Microsoft victory in overseas email seizure case is upheld

A U.S. federal appeals court upheld a July 2016 ruling that forbids United States authorities from forcing Microsoft and other tech firms to hand over customer emails and data stored on severs outside the US.

Microsoft says its customers have a constitutional right to know when the government collects private information.

Peter Carr, a US Department of Justice spokesman, said: "We are reviewing the decision and its multiple dissenting opinions and considering our options".

The DOJ has argued that tech companies can avoid valid warrants by storing customer data outside the U.S. And we'd add that Microsoft wasn't alone in its objection, with support from the likes of Amazon, Apple, CNN, our parent company Verizon and even the Chamber of Commerce.

Some argued that the panel did not appropriately address the issues surrounding the challenges faced by law enforcement when dealing with electronically stored data.

We reported in October past year that the US Government was taking Microsoft to the full 8 member panel appeals court after the 3 judge panel ruled in July 2016 that the Stored Communications Act "does not authorise courts to issue and enforce against usa -based service providers warrant in Microsoft's long-running privacy and data jurisdiction case". Microsoft said the government made 2,576 demands for data over an 18-month period before April 2016, the most recent numbers available, and about 68 percent of those had no end date.

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Microsoft's chief legal officer Brad Smith, on the other hand, said the company welcomed the ruling.

Mr Smith said the company had learned "the importance of standing up for privacy rights". "Microsoft customers have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the content they have stored".

The case is the fourth time Microsoft has sued the federal government on issues related to customer protections since Edward Snowden's disclosures about the government's reach into the internet and software companies' participation in such schemes.

"The court of appeals basically adopted what we'd been saying from the outset, that USA law doesn't reach outside the United States unless Congress specifically says that it intended it to do so, and Congress never said it intended, or said it meant to do so, when it passed this law in 1986". In instances where Microsoft believes the government has overstepped its bounds with a gag order, it should argue that case individually, government lawyers said.

Soskin, representing the government, said the system has legal protections: Magistrates approve the warrants before they are served.

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