Over 80 technology and media companies including fierce competitor Apple, rallied to support Microsoft by signing supporting “friend of the court” briefs on Monday. Microsoft is fighting in a federal appeals court to prevent the US government from seizing customer emails hosted outside of the United States.
“Collectively these briefs make one conclusion unmistakably clear,” Microsoft said in a blog. “This case involves not a narrow legal question, but a broad policy issue that is fundamental to the future of global technology.”
Microsoft filed a brief with the court Dec. 8 with the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals after a district court judge in New York upheld the warrant. Microsoft contends that the warrant is illegal because the emails requested are stored outside of the US in a Dublin, Ireland data center.
“Seldom do you see the breadth and depth of legal involvement that we’re seeing today for a case that’s below the Supreme Court,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in an interview.
The precedents being set with regards to data protection in various countries are important to watch not just from a personal privacy standpoint but also for the ways it can impact service providers and business.
Companies are flocking to the cloud in droves. Sixty-five percent of companies would switch to public or hybrid cloud-based solutions and ditch their data centers tomorrow if that were possible. Enterprises are planning to spend 15 percent more on cloud services in 2015. As more and more companies embrace cloud services, it is important to be aware of these issues in relation to data being being stored in multiple countries through the cloud.
Microsoft feels governments should be respecting the laws of other countries when it comes to stored data. “We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws,” said the blog post. “In contrast, the US government’s unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk.”
Currently only one percent of cloud services used by European enterprises meet EU data requirements and EU regulators are making decisions about internet privacy that could have implications beyond its borders. Storing data in multiple countries complicates this issue since they have varied regulations.
Microsoft is considering building a data center in Germany to circumvent some of these issues. Microsoft’s German head Christian Illek told the Tagesspiegel in September that keeping data within Germany would make the data subject to German and European law, circumventing the attempt of the NSA and US courts to obtain private data.