Microsoft Is Challenging The US Government’s Use Of Search Warrants To Access Data Stored Abroad

Microsoft lost its first challenge to the authority of the United States government’s use of search warrants to demand data stored abroad.

Microsoft challenged a U.S. search warrant for emails stored in Ireland. The cloud does have a physical footprint, after all. The company was not surprised that it lost the initial test, noting in a blog post that “the Magistrate Judge, who originally issued the warrant in question, disagreed with our view and rejected our challenge.”

The company states that it “knew the path would need to start with a magistrate judge, and that we’d eventually have the opportunity to bring the issue to a U.S. district court judge and probably to a federal court of appeals.” So, today’s setback for Microsoft is not really a dispiriting moment. Think of it more as a first step.

There is a process called the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty that countries can use to request data and the like from one another. So, even if Microsoft does in fact win in the end, it won’t close the system.

American search warrants aren’t worth a thing in China, as Chinese search warrants aren’t of much use in California. Microsoft’s point that the location of data demanded matters is simple, and reasonable.