We reported a few days ago that major European trade organizations also weighed in on Microsoft’s side in a long-running 2013 data jurisdiction case, with Microsoft is currently in the US Supreme Court fighting a data request by the DoJ for information held in Ireland on their servers on an Irish resident.
Now Microsoft’s chief counsel Brad Smith has revealed that this was just one of 23 amicus briefs filed with the US Supreme Court in support of Microsoft’s position that the DoJ should request data held by Microsoft overseas via normal treaty process rather than forcing Microsoft to hand it over without any local approval, which may breach rules in the originating country.
“On Thursday, 289 different groups and individuals from 37 countries signed 23 different legal briefs supporting Microsoft’s position that Congress never gave law enforcement the power to ignore treaties and breach Ireland’s sovereignty in this way,” Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith wrote in a blog post. “How could it? The government relies on a law that was enacted in 1986, before anyone conceived of cloud computing.”
Some of the briefs are by other major tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook who will also be affected by the outcome of the case.
The list also includes a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, suggesting new laws are needed instead.
“As I’ve long said, the question of whether and when law enforcement’s authority should reach overseas is a policy question for Congress, not the courts,” Hatch said in a statement, noting that he and others are currently at work on the International Communications Privacy Act to address the issue. “I urge the Court to allow my colleagues and me to complete our work rather than rendering a decision that will upend legislative efforts and create substantial problems for service providers and their customers.”
Despite the case going into its 5th year, the DoJ has argued that going through the treaty process to obtain data stored in other countries would lead to unnecessary delays.
Microsoft has more than 100 data centres in 40 countries, and leaving that data open to a simple US warrant would make foreign companies very reluctant to trust their data to any US company. If the US Government prevailed in its insistence that it has jurisdiction over any data held overseas by an American company it would have a damaging effect on the business of cloud service companies such as Microsoft and Google, who may be shut out of markets such as the EU with tight privacy laws.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on February 27th.