For the last four years, Microsoft has been fighting a battle with the US courts over the right for law enforcement to access data held in servers that are outside their physical jurisdiction. The battle concerns the email account of someone involved in a drug trafficking investigation. The US Government argues that they have jurisdiction as the data can be accessed by the click of a mouse from within the USA. Microsoft says that since the data is in Dublin, Ireland the US government lacks jurisdiction.
This matter has seen courts and appeals courts over rule each other several times. The last time this was in front of a court, the panel of judges were split 4-4 so the previous decision, ruling in Microsoft’s favour stood. But the US government is going around again. You can read the full ins-and-out of the case here.
The summary of the two sides of the argument is the US government says if the data is held in assets owned by an American company and can be accessed from anywhere then US law enforcement has jurisdiction. Microsoft argues they would comply with a warrant issued in the country where the data is held assuming the US government has a legal arrangement in place for such a process – kind of an extradition treaty for data.
This case is extremely important for every single one of us that has data stored on a server owned by an American company. If US law enforcement can force companies to access data held outside their physical jurisdiction then it’s possible anyone’s data could be accessed as part of investigation.
What’s certain is the US government is extremely zealous when it comes to pushing the legal boundaries of what they can access and trying to compel companies to bend to their will. And it seems Microsoft (like Apple in the San Bernadino shooter case) is sticking to their guns and fighting hard using every legal avenue possible.
I can’t help but be saddened that it’s large corporations who seem to be more committed to protecting our rights than our elected officials.