Justice Department asks court to review decision on Microsoft e-mails held in Ireland

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The Justice Department asked the full appeals court for the Southern District of New York to review a decision that upheld Microsoft’s refusal to comply with a search warrant for an alleged drug trafficker’s e-mails held in a server in Ireland. The July ruling by a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan was a win for Microsoft, which has argued that the court’s power to issue the warrant and the government’s authority to seize the data do not extend overseas. Microsoft, one of the world’s largest e-mail providers, received the warrant in December 2013. But what might ordinarily have been routine compliance with a federal law enforcement request has instead become a pitched battle over government access to digital data held overseas — one that might be headed to the Supreme Court.

The warrant came in the wake of disclosures that shed light on tech firms’ role in complying with US surveillance programs, damaging the burgeoning cloud computing industry. The law at issue is the Stored Communications Act, passed in 1986. “Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially,” US Appeals Court Judge Susan Carney wrote in the opinion. “The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests.” Prosecutors argue that the panel erred. They say the law’s focus is disclosure, not privacy. There is “widespread recognition that the limit of privacy is reached where the warrant begins,” US Attorney Preet Bharara argued in the petition to the full appeals court.

Justice Department asks court to review decision on Microsoft e-mails held in Ireland US renews fight for the right to seize content from the world’s servers (ars technica)