Can Microsoft Defy Feds? Supreme Court to Weigh In

Company won't turn over emails held on server overseas
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 16, 2017 11:25 AM CDT
Supreme Court to Weigh In on Feds' Microsoft Dispute
The Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court is intervening in a digital-age privacy dispute between the Trump administration and Microsoft over emails stored abroad, per the AP. The justices said Monday they'll hear the administration's appeal of a lower court ruling in favor of Microsoft. The court held that the emails sought in a drug trafficking investigation were beyond the reach of a search warrant because they were kept on a Microsoft server in Ireland. The company had argued that authorities shouldn't be allowed to seize evidence in a foreign country, saying it could lead to other nations trying to seize data stored in the US, reports the Washington Post. The case is among several legal clashes that Microsoft and other technology companies have had with the government over questions of digital privacy and authorities' need for information to combat crime and extremism.

The case also highlights the difficulty that judges face in trying to square decades-old laws with new technological developments. In 2013, federal investigators obtained a warrant under a 1986 law for emails from an account they believe was being used in illegal drug transactions, as well as for identifying information about the user of the email account. Microsoft turned over the latter information, from the US, but it went to court to defend its decision not to hand over the emails from Ireland. The federal appeals court in New York agreed with the company. The administration said in its Supreme Court appeal that the decision is damaging "hundreds if not thousands of investigations of crimes—ranging from terrorism, to child pornography, to fraud."

(Read more US Supreme Court stories.)

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