For this week’s blog post, we will be continuing with a discussion of another recently decided Supreme Court case. Specifically, we will cover United States v. Microsoft Corporation, and talk about the ramification’s the Court’s decision has on the world of internet technology.
This case involves user data privacy rights and the ability of US based technology companies to refuse to comply with federal warrants when user data is stored overseas. The case had to do with the extraterritorial (outside of the United States) application of the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and whether warrants issued under SCA could be effective with regard to new internet technology such as cloud storage and data centers.
In 2013, FBI agents obtained a warrant requiring Microsoft to disclose emails and information related to a customer’s account who was believed to be involved in drug trafficking. Microsoft attempted to quash the warrant, claiming that all of the customer’s emails and information were stored in Microsoft data centers in Dublin, Ireland. The court held Microsoft in civil contempt for refusing to give agents the emails, but this decision was reversed by the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit held that requiring Microsoft to give federal agents emails that were stored overseas would be outside the realm of permissible extraterritorial application of the Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. 2703).