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Apple and Cisco lend support to Microsoft in cloud data access debate

16 Jun 2014
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Apple and Cisco have voiced their support for Microsoft in its battle with US authorities over the right to access cloud data stored overseas. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Verizon and AT&T have added their support too.

Last week Microsoft told V3 that it will fight the demands on its data until the end after a US judge ruled in April that data stored overseas, but owned by a US firm, could be searched by US authorities.

"We're continuing to challenge this search warrant in the courts as promised on behalf of our customers who expect and deserve basic privacy rights," Microsoft said.

"The US government can't execute a search warrant in other countries, and we don't believe it has the authority to ask Microsoft to do what it can't."

Now, in a court document filed on Friday, legal counsels for Cisco and Apple filed a joint document adding their support for Microsoft's position.

"The Magistrate’s failure to include a more thorough international law and comity analysis has serious consequences and, if followed by other courts, is likely to put Apple and other providers in the untenable situation of being forced to violate one nation’s laws to comply with another," the document reads.

Microsoft will no doubt welcome the support from two other leading tech giants, and the fact Apple especially is willing to lend its public support to a rival's legal fight underlines the strength of feeling the situation is generating.

The EFF also confirmed its support for Microsoft on its website, saying that such a warrant would be against local rights and bad for the industry.

EFF staff attorney Hanni Fakhoury said: "The Fourth Amendment protects from unreasonable search and seizure. You can't ignore the 'seizure' part just because the property is digital and not physical. Ignoring this basic point has dangerous implications – it could open the door to unfounded law enforcement access to and collection of data stored around the world."

Verizon joined the campaign in the middle of last week, and confirmed its legal moves in a blog post as explained by Randal Milch, general counsel and executive vice president of public policy.

"The magistrate's decision in this case allowed the US government to use a warrant to compel Microsoft to produce a customer's email stored overseas. Verizon believes that decision was wrong: the law does not allow the US government to use a search warrant to obtain customer data stored overseas," he wrote.

"We think the decision was wrong when applied to an email service provider; it would be even more wrong to apply the same logic to customers' data stored in cloud data centers outside the US."

The case could well prove to be a landmark moment in the cloud industry as the outcome of the legal case will pose serious questions for firms wary of the possibility US authorities could seize their data at any point, even if stored overseas.

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Dave Neal

Dave Neal is a reporter at The INQUIRER. Previously he worked at, VNUnet, and IT Week in editor and journalist roles.

He started his career when the Y2K bug was a front page story and remains committed to covering the interesting world of technology news.

He left the world of office working four years ago and now represents The INQUIRER from home in Kent with his dog.

Dave has been quoted in papers including the London Metro.

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