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U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take on Microsoft email privacy case

According to Reuters, the court will decide whether U.S. prosecutors should have access to emails held on Microsoft servers located in Dublin, Ireland.

From Reuters:

The justices will hear the Trump administration's appeal of a lower court's ruling last year preventing federal prosecutors from obtaining emails stored in Microsoft computer servers in Dublin, Ireland in a drug trafficking investigation.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals was a win for privacy advocates, but Justice Department prosecutors have expressed concern that such a ruling could hinder criminal investigations. No matter the ruling, the case stands to have far-reaching consequences, as the Supreme Court will decide whether domestic search warrants apply to data held outside of the U.S.

In a blog post (opens in new tab), Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith argued that allowing the government access to data stored outside of the United States would set a worrying precedent not only in the U.S., but also for governments around the world. Says Smith:

If the U.S. government can unilaterally use a warrant to seize emails outside the United States, what's to stop other governments from acting unilaterally to seize emails stored inside the United States? At a time when countries are rightly worried about foreign government hacking, the DOJ's interpretation would open the door to accomplishing the same thing.

According to Reuters, a ruling in this particular case is due by the end of June.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to

  • We need to have limits.  Limiting USA to USA soil sounds like a good limit.  If a person sent a snail mail letter to someone in Dublin looking for drugs, should the USA have access to that letter too?  Nope.  Same thing.  I would rather a criminal go free (although in most cases, there is plenty of other evidence that no criminal is going to go free) than we give up our freedoms.  USA government is a bully and needs to be stopped and put in it's place.  Having the right to do something and doing the right thing are often two different things.
  • Much of this is not necessarily about individual criminal activities. This likely has to do with individuals that are involved directly or indirectly with drug cartels and violate antitrust laws. I agree that there should be limits, but there should also be some room to investigate evidence for drug cartel activities outside of the US., when that evidence is stored on servers owned by a US based company. Keep in mind, many of the larger terrorist organizations are involved directly with drug cartels. Drug cartels have their hands in many facets of business that violate antitrust laws. So, this isn't just about convicting a simple drug dealer. Additionally, in order to prosecute someone on international antitrust violations, governments in other countries do get involved and work with the United States to connect the evidence for prosecution. Privacy laws do a pretty good job at protecting our rights, but it is not perfect, especially in an age where criminals mostly communicate through email and chat apps. When the Privacy Act of 1974 was put into place, they had not considered the scope of technological growth over the last few decades. Laws are living documents that have to adapt to the methods and technologies of the time, especially concerning criminal activities. Yes, safeguards and accountability should be the primary focus, when dealing with privacy issues. However, criminals shouldn't go free, because people are afraid of what may or may not happen, when it comes to our privacy. Anytime we use social media, fill out applications online, send emails, especially work emails, surf the web or anything that sends and receives electronic communications can be abused or hacked. There are more than enough companies that data mine for unlawful purposes to worry about. At some point, people have to learn to trust the government. But, that starts by educating ourselves on the laws and keeping the government honest, by forcing them to be transparent with their actions. I don't mean every little detail that could compromise an investigation. I'm speaking of having multiple governmental agencies, domestic and foreign, more involved. The more involved with getting approval for international investigations, the more accountability there is.
  • What language are you talking in please?
  • Shouldn't the country, in which the server resides, also have something to say about that? I find it highly concerning, that the USA does seemingly try to just ignore borders and do whatever they please. Don't get me wrong, justice needs to be served, but it can't be at the cost of crossing borders without "walking" over other country's laws
  • Curious about that too. EU have extensive privacy regulations and soon we are going to implement GDPR... Wonder how this will be bypassed...
  • Emails should only be available when there is a warrant with probable cause. Warrants for foreign servers should go through foreign governments.