Internet Companies Berate Microsoft’s Recent Loss In Email Privacy Case

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Yesterday Microsoft lost its appeal challenging the legal standing of a U.S. Government warrant to command access to data stored abroad.

The case, in which U.S. authorities demanded email content of stored on servers in Ireland, has attracted considerable attention in the technology industry. Apple and Cisco filed a joint amicus brief in Microsoft’s favor, among others. Microsoft has vowed to appeal.

Moreover, the judge seemed ill-equipped to make a ruling on the case based on her technical knowledge. According to sources present, the judge referred to Microsoft repeatedly as an ISP — which it isn’t. She also made mention of a Microsoft employee in California executing a search, where the company is not headquartered, and suggested she did not know much about cloud technology.

In the wake of Microsoft’s quick loss, Internet service providers have criticized the court’s decision.

Wayne WattsAT&T senior executive vice president and general counsel, said the company supported Microsoft.

“There is nothing more critical than protecting the privacy and information of every single AT&T customer – no matter the country in which they reside,” Watts said in a statement. “That’s why we’re extremely disappointed with today’s U.S. District court decision in favor of the U.S. government’s extraterritorial search warrant. We will strongly support Microsoft’s pursuit of a stay and subsequently a successful appeal of this decision.”

Verizon also disagreed with the court’s decision.

“These matters are very fact-sensitive, and while we have not received a request like this one before, if we were to receive a warrant from the United States Government compelling us to produce data stored by an overseas customer in our overseas data centers, we would challenge the warrant in court,” the company posted on its public policy blog.

It isn’t surprising that companies who don’t see eye to eye on other issues — net neutrality, for example — are unified on this matter. Data storage and delivery is a global, cloud-based business by definition. As such companies that have an international client base want to be able to segregate their data storage to best protect the information of their locationally diverse clientele. And if their technical home country can demand access to any data they store, regardless of where it is stored, companies can offer little protection to citizens with different colored passports, especially when their home government may have little regard for the privacy of foreigners and thus might make outsized demands.

The United States has taken repeated recent knocks for not only abrogating the privacy of foreign citizens, but also the privacy of closely allied leaders of friendly governments.

Microsoft, it appears, will appeal this case until it either runs out of courts, or wins.

Featured Image: Chris Potter/Flickr UNDER A CCPL LICENSE