Microsoft has been ordered by a US judge to give the District Court access to the contents of one of its customer’s emails stored on a server located in Dublin. Microsoft challenged the decision but the judge disagreed and rejected its challenge.
Following concerns about data privacy raised by whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks about US spying, Microsoft had previously said it planned to offer business and government clients control over where their data resided.
A search warrant, which was issued to Microsoft in December 2013 by US authorities, sought information associated with a member of the public’s email account including their name, credit card details and contents of all messages.
The search warrant was issued but Microsoft challenged it. “The US government doesn’t have the power to search a home in another country, nor should it have the power to search the content of email stored overseas,” said the company.
But the move to quash the search warrant has been denied by the judge.
US Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York said warrants for online data were different from other warrants. Internet service providers, such as Microsoft, will have to hand over information and emails stored in datacentres outside the US if they are issued with a valid search warrant from US law enforcement agencies.
Microsoft said it would continue to oppose the release of the Dublin-stored data.
“This is the first step toward getting this issue in front of courts that have the authority to correct the government’s longstanding views on the application of search warrants to content stored digitally outside the United States,” it said.
In a blog post, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president and deputy general counsel, David Howard, said:“We filed a formal legal challenge to the US search warrant seeking customer email content that is located exclusively outside the United States.”
“A US prosecutor cannot obtain a US warrant to search someone’s home located in another country, just as another country’s prosecutor cannot obtain a court order in her home country to conduct a search in the United States. We think the same rules should apply in the online world, but the government disagrees.”
The search warrant covered search and seizure of contents of all emails stored in one user account, including copies of emails sent from the account as well as other information in the email account such as address books, contact lists, pictures, and files.