An appellate court has ruled in favor of Microsoft in a privacy battle with the US government. As part of a drug investigation, the latter required Microsoft to turn over the contents of an Outlook.com e-mail account stored on an Irish server.
Microsoft refused to comply and a lower court held the software giant in contempt. But today the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Stored Communications Act, which allows domestically held data to be handed over to the government, does not apply to data stored outside the US:
In December 2013, authorities obtained an SCA warrant, which was signed by a judge, as part of a drug investigation and served it upon Microsoft. When the company refused to comply, a lower court held the company in contempt. Microsoft challenged that, too, and the 2nd Circuit has vacated the contempt of court order, writing:
We conclude that Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially. The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests. Accordingly, the SCA does not authorize a US court to issue and enforce an SCA warrant against a United States based service provider for the contents of a customer’s electronic communications stored on servers located outside the United States. The SCA warrant in this case may not lawfully be used to compel Microsoft to produce to the government the contents of a customer’s e?mail account stored exclusively in Ireland. Because Microsoft has otherwise complied with the Warrant, it has no remaining lawful obligation to produce materials to the government.