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Microsoft wins appeal over U.S. access to emails stored in Ireland

Fri 15 Jul 2016

Microsoft Ireland

Microsoft cannot be forced to hand over email data stored in its Irish data centres to U.S. authorities, a court has ruled.

A significant move for online data privacy, the ruling was made at a federal appeals court as part of a U.S.-based criminal investigation which saw prosecutors demand access to digital communications related to a drug-trafficking case, dating back to 2013.

‘This is an an incredibly important ruling, one of the most important in a long time,’ said Craig Newman, head of data privacy at New York law firm Patterson Belknap.

It is expected that the U.S. government will appeal the call, which would elevate the case to the national Supreme Court.

‘We are disappointed with the court’s decision and are considering our options,’ commented U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson Peter Carr.

Microsoft had originally given the U.S. access to all the information it had stored on its servers in Dublin, but subsequently sued to block the warrant. The tech giant argued that U.S. law enforcement could not seize evidence hosted in a foreign country.

Microsoft lost the first round two years ago, when U.S. district Judge Loretta Preska ruled that the organisation had to hand over the emails. It continued to fight that if it complied with the decision, overseas authorities would be able to demand information stored within the U.S.

‘As a global company we’ve long recognised that if people around the world are to trust the technology they use, they need to have confidence that their personal information will be protected by the laws of their own country,’ said Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer.

Microsoft was supported by 23 tech and media firms, 28 trade and advocacy groups, and 35 top computer scientists, as well as the Irish government. These parties filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of Microsoft.


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