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Feds' bid to seize Irish emails threatens US citizen's privacy, Microsoft says

Loek Essers | Dec. 10, 2014
The US government would not allow another country to seize data stored on US soil in the same way, Microsoft said in a court filing.

The district court based its ruling on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). To avoid international discord, courts usually presume that federal statutes do not apply extraterritorially, unless Congress expressed a clear intent to do so, which it did not in this case, Microsoft said. Nor did Congress express any intention to allow the government to ignore any international treaties, it added.

Nevertheless, the district court upheld the extraterritorial execution of the warrant, arguing that the term "warrant," in this case actually meant a "hybrid" subpoena, indistinguishable from the type that can compel a bank to produce its own transaction records from a foreign branch.

"If the Government wants the unprecedented power it claims here, it should plead its case to Congress. Meanwhile, the warrant issued here cannot reach emails stored in Ireland, and the judgment should be reversed," Microsoft told the appeals court.

The case so far raised more than a couple of eyebrows in the EU where the Irish government last month asked the European Commission for legal aid in the case. If the U.S. Department of Justice were to get its way in the case, European data protection laws may effectively be bypassed, the Irish government warned.

 

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