Supreme court to hear long-running Microsoft digital jurisdiction case today

Digital Privacy

We have long been following the saga of Microsoft’s ongoing 2013 data jurisdiction case, with Microsoft today in the US Supreme Court fighting a data request by the DoJ for information held in Ireland on their servers on a claimed Irish resident.

Microsoft has long held that the DoJ should request the email data they seek via an Irish warrant as the data is stored on Irish servers, while the DoJ insists it is only a few clicks away for Microsoft and should be delivered by the US company directly.

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.

More than 23 amicus briefs have been 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 recent blog post. “How could it? The government relies on a law that was enacted in 1986, before anyone conceived of cloud computing.”

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, making the stakes very high for not just Microsoft but other cloud companies also.

Keep an eye on the site for the latest news on this important case.

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