NW software giant Microsoft is in federal court today over the privacy of emails. The issue revolves around the protection of emails held outside U.S. borders and whether a US warrant can force access. Below is a defense of email privacy by Brad Smith who represents general counsel for Microsoft.
By Brad Smith
Microsoft will oppose the U.S. government at a hearing in federal court in New York, arguing that it can’t force American tech companies to turn over customer emails stored exclusively in company data centers in other countries. This dispute should be important to you if you use email, because it could well turn on who owns your email—you or the company that stores it in the cloud. In December the government sent Microsoft a search warrant seeking a consumer’s emails as part of a narcotics investigation. While the company appreciates the vital importance of public safety, it seeks to ensure that governments access customers’ communications only through a valid legal process. In this case, the emails are stored in Dublin, Ireland, where Microsoft maintains a data center to service some of its customers outside the U.S.
Microsoft believes you own emails stored in the cloud, and that they have the same privacy protection as paper letters sent by mail. This means, in our view, that the U.S. government can obtain emails only subject to the full legal protections of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. It means, in this case, that the U.S. government must have a warrant. But under well-established case law, a search warrant cannot reach beyond U.S. shores.Read the full article and discuss it »