Microsoft has won an epic battle with US government on internet surveillance. As per the latest hearing, US NSA cannot force Microsoft to give authorities access to the firm’s servers located in other countries.
The US vs Microsoft case summary goes as follows—In relation with a drug case investigation, The US Department of Justice (DOJ) wanted to access a Microsoft server database in Ireland. A court in Manhattan granted the access to the DOJ in 2014. But Microsoft immediately filed a counter petition for restricting the access of DOJ to Ireland servers.
Now, after a couple of years and 14 hearings, Microsoft has won a battle against the US government. The court clearly directed the DOJ that the government can no longer seek to use its search warrants on a unilateral basis to reach into other countries and obtain emails that belong to people of other nationalities.
Judge Susan Carney ruled against the DoJ on the basis that the Stored Communications Act of 1986 limited the reach of warrants applicable outside the US. She noted that such restrictions were vital to maintain good relations with other nations.
Furthermore, she said there were mechanisms available for co-operation between countries in investigation- like GHCQ UK cooperating with NSA. But this route is often time consuming and pretty expensive.
When Microsoft filed a petition against US Governments internet surveillance, companies like Google, Amazon, Apple and Cisco supported it. Yahoo also did, but for some reason it backed out mid way.
Microsoft’s main strength was an Open Rights Group, a UK based organization that campaigns for digital rights related to censorship and surveillance. The strong support from the group and large companies made Microsoft stand against the Fed and present its argument that a US search warrant cannot be applied in foreign countries due to data security and privacy fears.
The data privacy argument presented in court by Microsoft was interesting. It said that allowing search warrant to be conducted could open up a global privacy “Free for all”. It added that on seeing this instance, other countries would also perhaps seek to apply their own search warrants to servers located in US.
Although, the court order related to Microsoft Vs United States reached out in favor of Microsoft, Judge Susan Carey agreed that outdated communication laws need to be reviewed urgently.
More details will be updated shortly.