The Stack Archive

Hand over overseas data, says US judge in totally unhelpful cloud privacy ruling

Mon 28 Apr 2014

Here we go again. Another US legal ruling that has implications for us all .

According to Diginomica, a magistrate has ruled that Microsoft must give up some emails held on a server in Ireland to comply with a US warrant. The article’s author has focused on the privacy issue (I’m not sure about the “unhelpful” bit – you’ll need to read the article) but there is also a political angle to this.  It is a situation that harks back to another issue that was big in the cold war days of US extraterritoriality in high tech equipment exports ie applying its rules/laws in foreign countries, to stop its sophisticated kit being rexported to the Commies. Just as in those days, the US govt will probably bully the international supplier to comply. Quite how Microsoft will square it off with the EU remains to be seen.

Of course, this magistrate’s ruling can and almost certainly will be challenged in a higher court.

“What Francis (US magistrate Judge James Francis) has now decided is the US services providers, such as Microsoft and Google, cannot refuse to hand over content stored on servers outside the US if there is a valid search warrant from US law enforcement.

In his ruling, Francis declares that the alternative to this would be that the US agencies would need to work with foreign governments to reach agreement on obtaining such data. This, he concludes, would never do.

“The burden on the government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be seriously impeded.”
To which the most immediate response would seem to be: not if there’s a good reason for asking for the information, surely?

But he’s right in one sense.

In the current post-NSA revelations climate and with European commissioners foaming at the mouth to stand up to the US ‘spying program’, the appetite for trans-atlantic co-operation is decidedly lacking in certain quarters.”



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