Microsoft urges U.S. court to block warrant for emails held abroad

Wed Sep 9, 2015 2:35pm EDT
 
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote) asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to block the U.S. government from forcing the company to hand over a customer's emails stored on an Irish server, warning that the precedent would create a "global free-for-all" that eviscerates personal privacy.

The case, the first in which a U.S. company has challenged a warrant seeking data held abroad, has captured the attention of the technology industry, privacy advocates and news organizations.

The appeal is centered on a search warrant seeking the emails of an individual in Dublin, as part of a drug investigation. The person has not been identified.

Joshua Rosenkranz, a lawyer for Microsoft, warned the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that upholding the warrant would open the door to other countries using their law enforcement powers to seize the emails of Americans held in the United States.

"We would go crazy if China did this to us," Rosenkranz said.

But Justin Anderson, a lawyer for the government, said U.S. law enforcement can obtain electronic information held by American companies with a valid warrant, regardless of where the data happens to be stored.

"It's not a question of ownership," he said, likening it to seizing account records from a bank. "It's about custody and control."

Nearly 100 organizations and individuals filed briefs in support of Microsoft's position, including tech giants like Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N: Quote) and Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O: Quote) and media companies like McClatchy Co (MNI.N: Quote) and Gannett Co Inc (GCI.N: Quote).   Continued...

 
A Microsoft logo is seen at a pop-up site for the new Windows 10 operating system at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, New York July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton