About Microsoft’s Warrant Case

Posted in Warrant Case

CASE HISTORY

Microsoft is challenging a U.S. government search warrant seeking access to customer emails in Dublin, Ireland. Lower courts ruled in favor of the government and Microsoft appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, filing its first brief with the Second Circuit in December 2014. The case has attracted amicus briefs from 28 technology and media companies, 23 trade associations and advocacy organizations, 35 prominent computer scientists, the Republic of Ireland and a member of European parliament.

FIVE QUICK FACTS

  • The Justice Minister for the European Commission authored a letter on this case.
  • The issues at stake in this case have been the subject of writing by academics and legal experts: See this, this, and this.
  • The LEADS Act, a solution proposed in Congress, has 91 co-sponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in Riley that “privacy comes at a cost.”
  • Here’s what Americans think about this issue… and here’s what the Irish think.

EXCERPTS FROM MICROSOFT’S BRIEF

“The Golden Rule applies as much to international relations as to other human relations. If the Government prevails here, the United States will have no ground to complain when foreign agents—be they friend or foe—raid Microsoft offices in their jurisdictions and order them to download U.S. citizens’ private emails from computers located in this country.”  (Opening brief, p. 3)

Congress, however, gave no indication in ECPA that it intended to authorize federal and local police to commandeer service providers to execute searches and seizures of private emails located in foreign countries. Nor did Congress express any intention to allow the Government to ignore established avenues for international cooperation, such as Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, to obtain such evidence.” (Opening brief, p. 3)

“The power of a subpoena to reach business records anywhere in the world has only ever applied to a company’s own records, not to private documents it holds in trust for its customers.” (Opening brief, p. 36)

“…a customer’s private email correspondence is no different from the contents of a safe deposit box or the letter inside a FedEx envelope. Like those physical letters, an electronic message belongs to the customer alone, not the email provider.” (Opening brief, p. 44)

Only Congress is positioned to weigh these competing interests.” (Opening brief, p. 18)