Microsoft is staying committed to a promise made by their chief counsel Brad Smith a few months ago. Smith said the company would fight legal demands from U.S. authorities to turn over data stored in Microsoft computing hubs outside the country. The promise was made after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents that claimed Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others were complicit in helping the U.S. government spy on its citizens.
Brad Smith today posted on WSJ that Microsoft will oppose the U.S. government at a hearing in federal court tomorrow in New York, arguing that it can’t force American tech companies to turn over customer emails stored exclusively in company data centers in other countries.
Microsoft believes you own emails stored in the cloud, and that they have the same privacy protection as paper letters sent by mail. This means, in our view, that the U.S. government can obtain emails only subject to the full legal protections of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. It means, in this case, that the U.S. government must have a warrant. But under well-established case law, a search warrant cannot reach beyond U.S. shores.
The government seeks to sidestep these rules, asserting that emails you store in the cloud cease to belong exclusively to you. In court filings, it argues that your emails become the business records of a cloud provider. Because business records have a lower level of legal protection, the government claims that it can use its broader authority to reach emails stored anywhere in the world.
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