January 24, 2022

Microsoft: unmasking emails risks ‘outrage’ overseas

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EmailConceptBy Sue Reisinger, From Corporate Counsel
Microsoft Corp. told a federal appeals court last week that the federal government has created “international discord” and “outrage” over its efforts to seize a customer’s email stored on company servers in Ireland.
The statements came as part of the computer giant’s reply this week to the government in a landmark case in New York. The government claimed that compliance with a search warrant doesn’t really create any genuine conflict with other countries’ laws that would raise concerns.
But granting the U.S. government such search and seizure power “would establish a norm that would allow foreign governments to reach into computers in the United States to seize U.S. citizens’ private correspondence, so long as those governments may assert personal jurisdiction over whatever company operates those computers,” Microsoft’s brief stated. “It would offend foreign sovereigns. And it would jeopardize American economic interests.”
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith wrote in an April 9 blog post: “In a nutshell, this case is about how we best protect privacy, ensure that governments keep people safe, and respect national sovereignty while preserving the global nature of the internet.”
Smith used the occasion to push once again for modernizing the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which is silent on the international aspects of the case. And his blog argued for enacting the bipartisan LEADS (Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad) Act, which has been introduced in Congress.
“Solutions are closer to hand than the government acknowledges in this case,” Smith wrote.
The case arose in December 2013 when Microsoft sought to quash the warrant seeking evidence in a drug trafficking case. A federal magistrate judge and then the U.S. district court in Manhattan ruled against the company in 2014. Now Microsoft’s appeal is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Some 28 leading technology and media companies, 35 computer scientists, and 23 trade associations and advocacy groups have filed friend of the court briefs in support of the company.
And at least one European official supports Microsoft. Viviane Reding, then the European Union vice president, slammed the U.S. search warrant efforts last year and said federal prosecutors might be in breach of international law. Reding has since been elected to the European Parliament.
On his blog, Smith said that any new national laws passed to address these issues “must respect the sovereignty of other countries and the fundamental human rights and online privacy of all users–they cannot be a blunt instrument to seek unilateral and unfettered access to information.”
For more on this story go to: http://www.corpcounsel.com/id=1202723246407/Microsoft-Unmasking-Emails-Risks-Outrage-Overseas-#ixzz3XCrrCYfB

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