Tech Industry and International Legislators Support Microsoft in Supreme Court Case

The Department of Justice's case against Microsoft, involving access to emails held in an an Irish data server, will have a major impact on digital privacy across borders.

by Rachel Lerman, The Seattle Times / January 22, 2018
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(TNS) — Nearly 300 companies, groups and individuals filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court this week in support of Microsoft in a case that has far-reaching implications for digital privacy across countries' borders.

The Supreme Court agreed in October to hear the U.S. government's appeal of its case against the Seattle-area tech company, involving access to emails held by Microsoft in an Irish data server.

The Justice Department asked the company to turn over the emails in 2013 as part of an investigation into a narcotics case. Microsoft refused, saying the U.S. would need to work with Irish authorities and that the government couldn't issue a warrant that reached into other countries.

Lawmakers around the world, especially in Europe, have weighed in on the case, some in support of Microsoft and some taking a neutral stance but still highlighting the hot-button issue.

"As these officials have explained, the U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to seize foreign customers' emails from other countries ignores borders, treaties and international law, as well as the laws those countries have in place to protect the privacy of their own citizens," Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post Friday.

The Department of Justice has argued that denying the request could create situations where criminals purposely store information abroad to avoid arrest.

Tech companies Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook and others signed a brief in support of Microsoft this week, as did several members of Congress from both parties and dozens of trade groups and media organizations.

Microsoft and the big tech companies that backed it argue that Congress needs to enact laws that match up with modern technology instead of relying on laws made in the 1980s that don't factor in cloud computing.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments from the government and Microsoft at the end of February.

©2018 The Seattle Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.