Microsoft Gets Apple Inc. Support Against ‘Global Search Warrants’

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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) in its bid to overturn a U.S. warrant that requires the software giant to produce email stored at its data center situated in Ireland, has received support from two more tech giants — Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Cisco. Last Friday, a ‘friend of the court’ brief was filed by the pair (spotted by GigaOm), when they joined AT&T, Verizon and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to back Microsoft’s Federal Court challenge to the warrant served by a federal magistrate last December.

Microsoft suggests MLAT as acceptable option

An appeal was made last week by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) where the warrant was likened to a court authorizing federal agents to peek inside the Dublin facility’s doors. The company also said that the government will have to rely on mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT) for getting access to the emails in its overseas facilities.

In the joint brief, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Cisco also argued that rather than place the burden of reconciling conflicting international laws squarely on U.S. providers, the government should turn to the MLAT between the US and Ireland.

“By disregarding that process, and the laws of the country where data is stored, the Magistrate’s analysis places providers and their employees at significant risk of foreign sanctions, and threatens a potential loss of customer confidence in US providers generally,” Cisco and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) said. They also think that this move will encourage enforcement of foreign law to take reciprocal actions, making use of equivalent foreign laws to require production of data stored in the United States, despite U.S. law prohibiting disclosure.

ECPA has the solution?

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s first attempt to defeat the warrant was turned down by the judge serving it, back in April. It was explained by the judge that a special type of warrant was allowed by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) that could order Microsoft to hand over the email stored at its overseas datacenter, a part of which was due to the fact that the ‘search’ would actually occur in the U.S.

The judge explained that for the purpose of limiting the disclosure of stored communications and placing rules around how such data could be obtained by the government, this kind of hybrid warrant was permitted under the ECPA. There are certain shortcomings with the Fourth Amendment protections for information stored online and this warrant is also meant to address those issues.

It was also argued by the EFF that since Ireland is the place where the seizure is occurring, that means the U.S. Fourth Amendment should apply, which provides for protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

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