According to a ruling made by the New York court, the personal information and private emails of web users, even if they are not stored in servers within the US, have to be handed over to US law enforcement. It has been stated by privacy campaigners that this decision has the power of affecting all users of US internet services and is basically showing contempt for citizens of Europe. It also conflicts directly with the rules of data protection outlined by the EU. This past Friday, James Francis, the US Magistrate Judge, said in a detailed ruling that private information should be turned over by US organizations including Google and Microsoft, when US law enforcement agencies serve them with a binding search warrant.
His conclusion indicated that an SCA warrant would be good enough, even if the information was stored on servers outside of the US and the American law would still be upheld. A government search warrant had been challenged by Microsoft, which had demanded the company to provide information of a user that was stored in servers in the US and also in Dublin. The company had argued that the borders of the US law could not be applied in Ireland, but Microsoft’s motion had been rejected by Francis.
According to one privacy group, citizens of the UK would also become vulnerable in this way if they choose to make use of any US services if the American companies are forced to disclose their data that’s stored overseas. The revelations of Edward Snowden of the NSA had shown the extent of access the US government had to personal data and now this new court ruling would further undermine the confidence of the customers in US businesses. It seems that now ordinary policing is being treated in the same way as surveillance was once regarded.
The deputy general counsel and the corporate Vice President of Microsoft, David Howard mentioned in a blog post that the company was going to challenge the search warrant formally. He said that the US government had no authority of searching anyone’s home in another country and the same should be applicable to information that’s stored overseas. He asserted that bilateral agreements had been made by the US that established specific procedures to be used in obtaining evidence in other countries and the same should be applicable to the online world. However, the government doesn’t seem to agree.
As per the ruling of Francis, a conventional warrant and a warrant issued for electronic communications is not the same due to which it has more power than the former. The apprehension of the EU citizens will increase in this way as they will realize that the US law doesn’t protect their data. If there was lack of confidence before, it has just worsened. Microsoft said that it will not back out of the appeals process and will go to the higher court for combating some of the jurisdictional challenges introduced by the internet and the slow speed at which the US law is being updated.