Technology giants resist US government request for access to Ireland-hosted emails
A high profile court case between Microsoft and the US government could threaten the position of US contractors offering cloud-based IT services to the UK public sector. Microsoft, with the backing of other technology giants including Apple, Amazon, HP and Verizon, is rejecting a US government demand for access to emails related to a drug trafficking investigation.
The information is stored in a data centre in Ireland. The US federal government says the company must comply with US legal requirements wherever the data in question is kept. Microsoft says that the requirement is trumped by privacy.
Brad Smith, the company’s legal chief, has said that the 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.”
He points out that the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act is almost 30 years old - “long before the dawn of the era of cloud computing” - and was never intended to apply beyond US borders.
Instead of invoking domestic legislation it says the US should pursue data access requests through the mutual legal assistance treaty process with foreign jurisdictions.
The case went before the US Court of Appeals today but a decision is not expected for several months. A verdict granting powers to the US government to view data stored overseas would damage the credibility of US business offering cloud-based systems overseas - especially in the privacy-conscious EU.