The US government and Microsoft have clashed in court over whether Microsoft should have to hand over data stored on its servers overseas. The case is being watched closely as it could have huge implications for the cloud market.
The case is the latest appeal filed by Microsoft, which is being required to hand over data stored in its Dublin data centre. The company has twice refused to hand over the information, putting itself in contempt of court.
Microsoft said in a brief filed with the court as part of the appeal in December that there will be a huge fallout that will negatively affect the US and its citizens if the US wins the right to demand data stored in overseas systems.
“If the government prevails here, the US will have no ground to complain when foreign agents - be they friend or foe - raid Microsoft offices in their jurisdictions and order them to download US citizens’ private emails from computers located in this country. That would put all of our private digital information at risk,” the company said in the brief.
Joshua Rosenkranz, counsel for Microsoft, continued this theme in court with a submission to the three judges in the case, as noted in a report by The Guardian from the hearing.
“This is an execution of law enforcement seizure on their land,” he said. “We would go crazy if China did this to us. This notion of the government’s that private emails are Microsoft’s business records is very scary."
However, US government attorney Justin Anderson said that the problem is not about location, but about the company that controls the data and the laws to which they are subject. “It’s not about ownership, it’s about custody and control,” he told the judges.
One of the judges in the case, Gerard Lynch, was involved in a similar case in the 1980s when he gathered information from overseas governments in a case against a commodities magnate, Marc Rich.
Lynch explained that, just like this case, his request for information from governments, including Switzerland's and Iran's, had generated disquiet among the nations involved, but that this was no cause for not following the law.
“We don’t do foreign relations,” he said, according to The Guardian report. “If Congress passes a law and the executive wields it like a blunderbuss in such a way as to cause international tensions, that’s for them to worry about.”
A decision is expected between October and February.
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