Does US Govt. have the Right to Our Data on Foreign Servers?

Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in Online, Mobile & IT by Scott Jordan

Here's an interesting and timely article in Ars Technica posted by David Kravets about the battle between Microsoft and the US government over customers' emails and whether or not the US government has the right to surveil emails that are housed in Microsoft's Irish datacenters.

Does US have right to data on overseas servers? We’re about to find out

Supreme Court case has ramifications for tech sector, foreign relations, and privacy.

David Kravets -6/24/2017, 4:26 AM

The Justice Departmenton Friday petitioned the US Supreme Court to step into an international legal thicket, one that asks whether US search warrants extend to data stored on foreign servers. The US government says it has the legal right, with a valid court warrant, to reach into the world's servers with the assistance of the tech sector, no matter where the data is stored.

The request for Supreme Court intervention concerns a 4-year-old legal battle between Microsoft and the US government over data stored on Dublin, Ireland servers. The US government has a valid warrant for the e-mail as part of a drug investigation. Microsoft balked at the warrant, and convinced a federal appeals court that US law does not apply to foreign data.

The governmenton Fridaytold the justices that US law allows it to get overseas data, and national security was at risk.

"This Court should grant review to restore the government’s ability to require providers to disclose electronic communications—which are, in this day and age, often the only or the most critical evidence of terrorism and crime," the government wrote. (PDF)

The outcome has huge privacy ramifications for consumers and for the tech sector, which is caught between a rock and a hard place. The sector is being asked by the US government to comply with court orders that sometimes conflict with the laws of where the data is stored.

To remedy that, Congress is trying to hash out legislation that would allow the US government to enter into reciprocity agreements with other countries so that each side has the right to access data on foreign servers—with a valid warrant.

To read the full article, go to Ars Technica


  • johnlead423
    john lead on January 5, 2022 at 8:35 a.m.

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  • homewatch
    Home Watch on January 5, 2022 at 10:21 a.m.

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  • FelicityYoung
    Felicity Young on January 12, 2022 at 7:43 a.m.
    I think the United States is powerful enough to have rights with overseas servers. -dayton toyota dealers
  • fuhra222
    David Ing on January 15, 2022 at 11:45 a.m.

    And here's the problem, the US can, as you point out, force a company that does business in the US to either hand over the data or cease doing business in the US. But that's only the start of it. A precedent like that would trigger what is effectively a trade war, with other countries making laws that if you want to do business in their country you must not do business in the US, as well as the precedent that all data held in the US is also obtainable by any other country in the world, including places like China, Russia, and Iran. The US is a big market, but it's not as big as the rest of the world, and businesses worldwide would suffer from such a trade war, especially those based in the US.

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    The question here has never been whether the US can force Microsoft to hand over the data, that part is obvious, they can. The real question is whether the US should do so, or if the cost is really too high. I believe it is. product liability claims finger lakes real estate

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