Supreme Court to hear case called 'existential threat' to cloud computing

Supreme Court to hear case called 'existential threat' to cloud computing”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from Microsoft in what many expect to be a resolution of a years-long legal battle over how it-and other big tech companies of its ilk-handles user data stored overseas.

The case, known as United States v. Microsoft Corp., has global implications and could potentially trigger an worldwide backlash, subjecting Americans' data to seizure by foreign governments, legal and digital rights experts warn.

Jennifer Daskal, a former Justice Department national security official who now teaches law at American University, said the case is "a huge deal for the future of the Internet, security and privacy".

Microsoft argues the legislation relied upon by the government, the Stores Communication Act of 1986, is far too old as well as being outdated to apply to today's internet infrastructure or with cloud computing.

In 2013, a federal judge in NY granted a government application for a warrant under 18 U.S.C. §2703 of the SCA to obtain email content and information from Microsoft about a suspected drug trafficker. But there was a problem.

Microsoft has long held that the DoJ should request the email data they seek via an Irish warrant as the data is stored on Irish servers, while the DoJ insists it is only a few clicks away for Microsoft and should be delivered by the U.S. company directly. The litigation turns on a 1986 law, the Stored Communications Act, passed long before email became a ubiquitous way to communicate and before American firms began storing massive amounts of data outside us borders.

Privacy groups are lined up on Microsoft's side.

"If the USA government can unilaterally use a warrant to seize emails outside the United States, what's to stop other governments from acting unilaterally to seize emails stored inside the United States?"

The case has received global attention. It's worth noting Ireland and the U.S. This means the exploration takes place where the company transfers the data the government says not at that locale where it transmits emails internally from one data center to another. A triumph for the government secluded supporters say would trigger off a global free for all not a single thing to cease any country for pursue data stored anywhere in the world.

A decision in favor of the USA government would also threaten cloud computing itself, Microsoft asserts. "That in turn sparked wide concern in a number of countries around the world, especially across western Europe but also in Brazil and other countries, about whether their data was really private when it was stored in the United States data center".

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer
Justice Stephen Breyer speaking to UVA law students Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

European governments are already pushing back. The company says it stores emails close to their owner so retrieval is faster.

In December 2013, Microsoft was asked to turn over some user some data to USA federal investigators, including emails. Congress needs to act to ensure that technology companies can flourish overseas while law enforcement has the right tools to gather evidence worldwide.

The case hinges on a reading of the Stored Communications Act, part of the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

FILE - The Supreme Court building is seen in Washington, D.C, April 4, 2017.

Microsoft and other tech giants argue that giving up data stored elsewhere is an attack on that country's sovereignty and, more importantly, that users would no longer trust cloud services.

Another is a bilateral cross-border data sharing agreement.

Lawmakers are attempting to find a better solution, as a bipartisan group of senators introduced recently the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act that would allow countries to enter agreements with the US allowing for cross border access.

The provider could challenge the request if it believed it was illegal under a foreign government's laws.

Both the Justice Department and Microsoft have endorsed the proposed legislation. Nonprofits like the ACLU and EFF as well as governments in Ireland, 33 U.S. States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and EU Parliament Members - among many, many others - have all sided with Microsoft.

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