Privacy in the digital age is a complicated matter as US courts are now finding out. According to Reuters, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan stayed a July 14 ruling that denied law enforcement access to a customer's email.
The original case from July involves emails wanted for a narcotics case. Microsoft, based in Washington state in the US, had the emails stored outside of the US on servers located in Ireland. The company argued that these emails were out of the reach of US law enforcement while law enforcement claimed Microsoft is a US company ergo a domestic search warrant still applies.
Today's vote was split 4-4 signaling a significant division amongst the justices. The dissenting judges were very critical of the rest with Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes noting:
The panel majority's decision does not serve any serious, legitimate, or substantial privacy interest.
The dissenting judges urged Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case. The new Trump administration who has advocated greater surveillance by LEA may see this case as an opportunity to tighten laws on US companies who seek to find refuge outside US jurisdiction.
Many media companies and advocacy groups came in defense of Microsoft including Fox News, CNN, Apple, Verizon Communications, Amazon.com, in addition to the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Protecting and ensuring consumer privacy is important to the images of those companies, which is why this case is of such importance to them.
For now, the case stands until further challenges make their way through the courts or the executive or legislative branches seek to legislate around the restriction.