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Apple, Cisco, AT&T join MS in opposing warrants on international data

updated 11:32 am EDT, Mon June 16, 2014

Court ruling could have impacts on global security

Apple, Cisco, and AT&T have filed amicus curiae briefs in support of Microsoft's appeal of court decision that could force it to turn over email from an Irish customer to US law enforcement. Magistrate Judge James Francis IV ordered Microsoft to supply the data based on the Stored Communications Act, even though the content in question not only belongs to an Irish person but is stored on servers in Dublin. Microsoft has argued that this violates the SCA, international law, and treaties the US has signed that govern how to handle requests for data on foreign citizens.

"In rejecting Microsoft's motion to vacate the search warrant, the Magistrate erred by failing to consider the conflicting obligations under foreign and domestic law that arise when courts order providers to produce data about foreign users stored in foreign countries," reads a joint filing between Apple and Cisco. "By omitting this evaluation - and by dismissing the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty ('MLAT') process out of hand with no factual findings regarding the Irish MLAT at issue - the Magistrate placed the burden of reconciling conflicting international laws squarely on U.S. providers."

Microsoft previously proposed that the US government could use MLAT to pursue relevant data. The treaty enables the exchange of information for law enforcement purposes between the US and Ireland. The Apple/Cisco brief further contends that leaving the warrant intact raises the risk of foreign sanctions, and sets a bad precedent for the treatment of data from American citizens.

In the past year US technology corporations have become more aggressive about legal issues involving privacy and security. Following the revelation of broad-reaching domestic espionage programs at the National Security Agency, companies that have willingly or unwillingly shared data with the NSA have been subject to public scrutiny, leading to attempts to appease those concerns.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Even if you're a multinational that cared nothing for its customers, I could see how you'd be wildly against this--the simple fact that the government of Ireland (or whatever country) could penalize you (potentially heavily) for turning over data stored locally on a local resident to a foreign country without any local due process in the matter would be plenty.

    Then add to that the potential, if you're a cloud services provider like any of the above, of international businesses simply refusing to sign on with you because they know their data can be pulled by a foreign government without any local due process (in violation of treaties, no less).

    It's one thing for the NSA to extralegally scrape anything and everything they can--having a non-US service provider isn't going to help you much with that. It's another entirely to have a foreign court say "turn over the data stored in your country", and have the company oblige. I know I wouldn't even consider signing up with a provider if, say, England or Russia could do that to my data as a US citizen stored on a US server.

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