U.S. Supreme Court dismisses Microsoft email privacy case

The U.S. Supreme Court today opted to dismiss a long-running legal tussle between Microsoft and the Justice Department, Reuters reports..

The case, which revolves around whether the government can compel tech companies to turn over data stored in overseas data centers, has been in dispute since 2013. Because Congress recently passed legislation that renders the need for a ruling moot, "no live dispute remains between the parties over the issue," the court said.

The legal dispute stems from a drug trafficking case in which Microsoft was served with a domestic warrant requesting emails stored at a data center in Ireland. Microsoft challenged the warrant, stating that the government, under U.S. law at the time, didn't have the right to access private information stored abroad, and that law enforcement should work with Irish authorities to secure the data in question. The government pushed back on that argument, stating that Microsoft should comply with the warrant because it is headquartered in the U.S.

Throughout the tussle, both sides argued that Congress should ultimately resolve the issue by passing new legislation to clarify the government's right to issue warrants for data stored overseas by U.S. companies. In March, the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act) was passed by Congress and signed into law, providing such a legal framework. Following its passage, both Microsoft and the Justice Department argued in legal filings that the Court should drop the case.

"The CLOUD Act both creates the foundation for a new generation of international agreements and preserves rights of cloud service providers like Microsoft to protect privacy rights until such agreements are in place," Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a blog post following the CLOUD Act's passage.

The Justice Department has since obtained a new warrant under the new law. Microsoft is currently in the process of reviewing the warrant and deciding how to respond.

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