The EU to lecture the US Supreme Court on European data protection rules in Microsoft – DoJ case

Digital Privacy

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. The DoJ has argued that since Microsoft controls the servers they could easily comply with the request while Microsoft has argued that the request should be passed through Irish authorities and normal “mutual legal assistance requests” channels.

Now it is reported that the European Union is to make a submission to the US Supreme Court to make sure the court understands the stringent data protection rules in place in the trading block.

“Given that the transfer of personal data by Microsoft from the EU to the US would fall under the EU data protection rules, the Commission considered it to be in the interest of the EU to make sure that EU data protection rules on international transfers are correctly understood and taken into account by the US Supreme Court,” the Commission said in a statement.

The amicus brief is said to be for information only and will not be in support of either side, though we suspect in general it would favour Microsoft’s interpretation.

“We welcome the EU’s involvement in the case. It is important that European voices are heard by the US Supreme Court” said John Frank, vice-president for EU Government Affairs, Microsoft.

Microsoft’s head legal counsel Brad Smith has earlier said “The [Justice Department’s] position would put businesses in impossible conflict-of-law situations and hurt the security, jobs, and personal rights of Americans,”

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.

Read more about the case in our previous coverage here.

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