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European Policy, Government Surveillance, Privacy & Data

Court Hands Microsoft Major Win, Rules US Warrants Don’t Reach Data Outside the Country

In a unanimous decision, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals handed Microsoft a complete victory in its challenge to the US government’s demand that Microsoft turn over emails stored in Ireland. The Court of Appeals held that a US warrant does not reach data stored outside of the United States. The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) filed an amicus brief in support of Microsoft in the case and the ruling tracks closely with CDT’s arguments.

“This ruling is a major affirmation that the rights we enjoy in the physical world continue to apply in the digital world. By declaring that a US warrant cannot reach communications content stored abroad, the court ruled strongly in favor of privacy and national rule of law,” said Greg Nojeim, CDT Director of the Freedom, Security and Technology Project.

The 3-0 decision from the court stated: “Congress did not intend the SCA’s (Stored Communications Act) warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially. The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interest.” This was the core of CDT’s amicus filing.

“Had the Department of Justice prevailed in this case, other countries would follow the US lead and start claiming access to data stored here in the US based on their own laws.  It would have been like the Wild West and disaster for privacy,” Nojeim added.

“The decision underlines the need for reform to address legitimate law enforcement demands for data stored abroad.  It should spur Congress to act by finally updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and advancing legislation that would reform the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) process,” Nojeim concluded.

CDT expects the US government to appeal the decision and will continue to advocate for ECPA and MLAT reforms to address the challenge of cross-border data demands.

Read more about the Microsoft-Ireland case here.