Microsoft data case may go to Supreme Court

US DoJ wants top court to rule on Ireland data-sharing case, but Microsoft disagrees

Legal hammer on keyboard

The US Department of Justice wants to drag Microsoft to the Supreme Court to decide on a case focused on whether American authorities can demand data the tech giant holds elsewhere.

The case has been running since 2014, when Microsoft refused to hand over data demanded by US authorities that it held in a datacentre in Ireland. The government and the tech giant have been locked in a court battle for the past three years and, now, it could be set to go to the Supreme Court.

The DoJ has asked the top court to consider the case, though it's yet to agree to hear the arguments and Microsoft hopes it doesn't, despite a string of judges previously finding in its favour.

"It seems backward to keep arguing in court when there is positive momentum in Congress toward better law for everyone," wrote Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief legal officer, in a blog post. "The DoJ's position would put businesses in impossible conflict-of-law situations and hurt the security, jobs, and personal rights of Americans."

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Smith noted that both the House and Senate have signalled they'd like to "modernise" the three-decade-old law that the case centres upon, as well as updating data-sharing treaties, which could well render the case moot.

"The litigation path DOJ is now trying to extend in parallel to legislative progress seeks to require the Supreme Court to decide how a law written three decades ago applies to today's global internet," he said. "The previous decision was soundly in our favor, and we're confident our arguments will be persuasive with the Supreme Court."

Smith added that Microsoft would rather continue its work with the DoJ to develop a new law, saying "the legislative path is better".

He also noted that under the General Data Protection Regulation coming into force across Europe in a year, it would be illegal to transfer customer data from Europe to the US for a unilateral search warrant. "This type of legal conflict isn't theoretical," he noted. "We have declined to comply with similar legal orders in Brazil because they conflict with US law."

He suggested that if the decision is reversed and the US successfully wins access to the data in question it will give Microsoft little basis to refuse other countries' demands for information held on American citizens. "This dilemma, which could be possible under today's request from DOJ, would create additional diplomatic tensions with other governments and present a security risk to the email of people and businesses in America," Smith added.

Microsoft does hand over data in emergencies - Smith noted that it handed over emails in 45 minutes following the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015 - but argued that the US demands would erode trust in the company and the wider tech sector, leading to people eschewing American tech companies.

Featured Resources

What you need to know about migrating to SAP S/4HANA

Factors to assess how and when to begin migration

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

Testing for compliance just became easier

How you can use technology to ensure compliance in your organisation

Download now

Best practices for implementing security awareness training

How to develop a security awareness programme that will actually change behaviour

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/cloud/cloud-computing/354478/microsoft-has-an-edge-on-aws-according-to-it-executives
cloud computing

Microsoft has an edge on AWS, according to IT executives

8 Jan 2020
Visit/hardware/354336/the-it-pro-products-of-the-year-2019-all-the-years-best-hardware
Hardware

The IT Pro Products of the Year 2019: All the year’s best hardware

24 Dec 2019
Visit/data-insights/data-management/354423/eu-us-data-transfer-tools-used-by-facebook-ruled-legal
data management

EU-US data transfer tools used by Facebook ruled legal

19 Dec 2019
Visit/laptops/34636/microsoft-surface-laptop-3-hands-on-review-powerfully-tempting
Laptops

Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13in review: Almost the perfect laptop

6 Dec 2019

Most Popular

Visit/policy-legislation/data-governance/354496/brexit-security-talks-under-threat-after-uk-accused-of
data governance

Brexit security talks under threat after UK accused of illegally copying Schengen data

10 Jan 2020
Visit/microsoft-windows/32066/what-to-do-if-youre-still-running-windows-7
Microsoft Windows

What to do if you're still running Windows 7

14 Jan 2020
Visit/operating-systems/microsoft-windows/354526/memes-and-viking-funerals-the-internet-reacts-to-the
Microsoft Windows

Memes and Viking funerals: The internet reacts to the death of Windows 7

14 Jan 2020
Visit/network-internet/broadband/354530/openreach-offers-free-full-fibre-installation-for-thousands-of
broadband

Openreach offers free full-fibre installation for thousands of homes

14 Jan 2020