In December 2013, the U.S. government served a search warrant on Microsoft seeking access to customer emails stored in Dublin, Ireland, where Microsoft maintains a data center. Microsoft opposes the government’s demand on the grounds that the government can’t force American tech companies to turn over customer emails stored exclusively in overseas company data centers. Meanwhile, the government has argued that emails you store in the cloud cease to belong exclusively to you. To learn more about the case, which is currently under appeal, click the links below.
Microsoft Challenges Warrant
In April 2014, Microsoft challenged a search warrant from the U.S. government seeking access to customer emails stored on a server in Ireland.
- The Search Warrant (Filed April 20, 2014)
- Magistrate Judge’s Memorandum on Search Warrant (Filed April 25, 2014)
Appeal to District Court
In June 2014, Microsoft appealed the Magistrate Judge’s decision.
- Microsoft’s Brief Objecting to Magistrate Decision (Filed June 6, 2014)
- Former Attorney General of Ireland Explains US-Ireland MLAT Process (Filed June 6, 2014)
- The Washington Post: Microsoft fights U.S. search warrant for customer e-mails held in overseas server (June 10, 2014)
- Government’s Brief (Filed July 9, 2014)
District Court Amicus Briefs
Business and privacy communities filed Amicus Briefs to the U.S. District Court.
- Verizon’s Amicus Brief (Filed June 10, 2014)
- Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Amicus Brief (Dated June 12, 2014)
- AT&T’s Amicus Brief (Filed June 12, 2014)
- Apple and Cisco’s Amicus Brief (Filed June 13, 2014)
- The Verge: AT&T, Verizon, and Apple back Microsoft in protest over warrant for emails held overseas (June 13, 2014)
In June 2014, the Vice President of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship of the European Commission expressed concern that the warrant’s extraterritorial application of foreign laws may be in breach of international law.
- Viviane Reding’s letter to a Member of the European Parliament (June 24, 2014)
- Financial Times: EU slams US over Microsoft privacy case (June 30, 2014)
Riley v. California
In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the police must obtain a warrant from a court before searching a cellphone, explaining that an individual’s email account is an electronic “cache of sensitive personal information” that is entitled to the highest level of Constitutional privacy protection.
- The New York Times: Major Ruling Shields Privacy of Cellphones (June 25, 2014)
District Court Hearing & Decision
In July 2014, a judge in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York heard Microsoft’s appeal and issued a ruling from the bench.
- Microsoft’s Response to the Government’s Brief (Filed July 24, 2014)
- The Washington Post: Judge orders Microsoft to turn over data held overseas (July 31, 2014)
The LEADS Act
In September 2014, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada) introduced the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, to clarify the limits of the government’s access to data abroad.
- Digital Constitution: New Milestone in the Conversation About Electronic Privacy Laws (September 18, 2014)
- Corporate Counsel: LEADS Act Would Limit Access to Data Stored Abroad (September 19, 2014)
Reintroduction of the LEADS Act
In February 2015, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada) re-introduced the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, to clarify the limits of the government’s access to data stored abroad.
- Digital Constitution: The LEADS Act: A common sense reform of our outdated privacy laws (February 12, 2015)
- ComputerWorld: Lawmakers introduce two bills to protect email privacy (February 12, 2015)
Appeal to Second Circuit
In December 2014, Microsoft filed its brief with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Microsoft’s Brief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Dated December 8, 2014)
- The Seattle Times: Microsoft brief details company’s rebuff of U.S. search of Irish servers (December 8, 2014)
- Government’s Brief (Dated March 9, 2015)
- Microsoft’s Reply Brief (Dated April 8, 2015)
- Microsoft’s Supplemental Letter to the Court (Dated October 6, 2015)
- Microsoft’s Supplemental Letter to the Court Regarding the Supreme Court’s Riling in RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Community (Dated June 31, 2016)
- The Hill: Microsoft: Feds are ‘rewriting’ the law to obtain emails overseas (April 9, 2015)
Second Circuit Amicus Briefs
Leading technology and media companies, academics, civil society organizations, and the Irish government filed 12 friend of the court briefs raising concerns about privacy protections for information stored in the cloud.
- Computer and Data Science Experts’ Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- Amazon and Accenture’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- Apple’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- AT&T, Rackspace, Computer & Communications Industry Association, i2Coalition, and Application Developer’s Alliance’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- Brennan Center for Justice, ACLU, The Constitution Project and EFF’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- BSA | The Software Alliance, Center for Democracy and Technology, Chamber of Commerce of the U.S., The National Association of Manufacturers, and ACT | The App Association’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- Anthony J. Colangelo, International Law Scholar’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- ABC, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, National Public Radio, The Guardian, The Washington Post and 23 other media groups’ Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- Verizon, Cisco, HP, eBay, Salesforce.com and Infor’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- Digital Rights Ireland, Liberty and Open Rights Group’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 15, 2014)
- Jan Philipp Albrecht, Member of European Parliament’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 19, 2014)
- Government of Ireland’s Amicus Brief (Filed December 23, 2014)
Second Circuit Decision
On July 14, 2016, the Second Circuit ruled 3-0 in favor of Microsoft’s lawsuit challenging a U.S. search warrant for customer emails in our Irish data center.