Published: Mon, October 16, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Supreme Court agrees to hear DOJ petition in Microsoft data warrant case

Supreme Court agrees to hear DOJ petition in Microsoft data warrant case

"If US law enforcement can obtain the emails of foreigners stored outside the United States, what's to stop the government of another country from getting your emails even though they are located in the United States?"

The case is United States v. Microsoft Corp.

Some of the suspect's data was being stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland. After concluding that the emails investigators sought were located on one of its servers in Ireland, Microsoft refused to hand over the information, arguing that a USA judge has no authority to hand out warrants for search and seizure of property or data overseas.

The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to reverse the lower courts.

The current state of the law doesn't mean that U.S. law enforcement has no access to data stored on foreign servers.

In December 2013, the US government issued a warrant in connection with an ongoing criminal narcotics investigation to seize data contained in an email account of a Microsoft customer.

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We disagree with the premise of the government's argument in favor of the warrant that customer email is the property of the email provider, not the customer, which would cause people to lose their rights when they go online. The full 2nd Circuit split on whether to rehear the case.

A coalition of 33 USA states and Puerto Rico backed the justice department's appeal.

This is a highly technical case that will probably produce a fairly specific ruling about Congress' intent with the Stored Communications Act and the limits of what that law authorizes.

At issue is whether the emails are beyond the reach of domestic search warrants issued under the Stored Communications Act, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Bloomberg News and the National Law Journal (sub. req.) report.

Twice in recent years the supreme court has ruled on major cases concerning how criminal law applies to new technology, on each occasion ruling against law enforcement.

The legal battle, launched in 2013, has already endured two rounds - with a judge initially ordering Microsoft to hand over all related emails in 2014.

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