Today marked a major win for Microsoft Corp. and for all tech companies in the United States. A federal appeals court ruled that the US government cannot force Microsoft or any other company to turn customer emails and other details stored on servers outside of the US over to the US government.
Susan Carney, Circuit Judge, ruled that information stored on servers that are not located within the United States are outside of domestic search warrants that are issued under the Stored Communications Act. The US government had been trying to gain access to client files held by Microsoft Corp on a server in Ireland. This new ruling overturns that request by the US government.
The Big Deal
Not only is this a major win for Microsoft, it’s also an important win for tech companies everywhere. In the past, many different technology companies have grappled with the US government when it comes to overturning client information. With this new ruling, there’s a good chance that technology companies may not have to divulge this type of information any longer.
This ruling may also mean that major companies like Microsoft start to store client data overseas if they do not do so already. The US government cannot solicit information that is stored in other countries if this ruling sticks and is not appealed.
Going to Bat
Microsoft is the first big technology company to challenge a warrant request from the US government - it’s also the first company to win such a historic case. This case will be historic if it is not challenged or appealed. Microsoft also told the court that allowing a warrant to cross borders in this manner would start something the company called a ‘free-for-all.’
What Microsoft meant by that statement is that if the US government is allowed to use a warrant to collect information stored on foreign servers, what’s to stop other governments from collecting the same type of data stored on US servers? This case proves a really good point, too, there is a limit to how far the US government should be able to reach.
A Major Win
Needless to say, this latest ruling is going to be a huge win for any company that stores client information on servers overseas. Many within the tech world are applauding this ruling. For a long time now, governments have been using warrants to gain private client information from technology companies like Microsoft. This latest ruling will put a stop to most of those requests.
Then again, other companies that come across warrants like this one will have to argue in court as well. There’s also the privacy issue to consider. People aren’t likely to trust any company that easily hands over private information - even if that information contains important details that governments want to know about.
It will be interesting to see whether or not companies in other countries attempt the same type of appeal when it comes to government searches. In some countries, though, there is no appealing such a government ruling.