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.