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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Appeals Court Backs Microsoft in Overseas Email Case

Reversing an April 2014 ruling by the District Court for the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York quashed a search warrant that would have required Microsoft to disclose contents of emails stored on a server in Ireland.  The Court ruled that the U.S. Stored Communications Act neither explicitly nor implicitly envisioned the applications of its warrant provisions overseas, which was the government's central argument in the case, agreeing with Microsoft that inter-governmental mutual legal assistance treaties should be relied upon in cases such as this. Tech companies, lobbying groups and media associations had submitted briefs to support Microsoft’s position, arguing that allowing a warrant to be served would undermine their business prospects abroad and lead to tit-for-tat retaliation by foreign governments with respect to emails stored in the US.  At a time of great uncertainty over the legality of trans-atlantic data flows, the ruling removes a key obstacle to reaching a viable accord with the EU and demonstrates the independence of the US judicial system.  Whether the US government will appeal the ruling remains to be seen.

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