A number of weeks ago, the US government served a warrant to Microsoft which would allow federal agents to rifle through data contained inside offshore data centers.
Completely overstepping the bounds of international information privacy treaties, the ruling was handed down by the US District Court, who claimed that because Microsoft was an American company, that gave them free reign over any data collected by the software giant regardless of the country it was sourced from or stored inside of.
Microsoft has spent the past few months fighting the request with the help of Verizon, AT&T, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, likening the warrant to agents “breaking down the doors” of their Dublin facility and taking the contents contained within without any legal precedence to show for the effort.
The brazen show of force has now prompted Cisco and Apple to step in, (both owners of international data centers themselves), who filed a “friend of the court” brief on Friday to appeal in support of Microsoft, as well as show that when the US eventually comes knocking at their doors, that Silicon Valley stands united in its defense of their customers’ personal privacy.
“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 said.
It also encourages foreign law enforcement to take reciprocal actions by using equivalent foreign laws to require production of data stored in the United States, despite disclosure prohibitions in US law.”
The judge in charge of the case quashed Microsoft’s original appeal, claiming that the case was in full compliance with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which would allow a special type of warrant that would apply to email and communications stored on offshore servers.
While the EFF continues to argue that the Fourth Amendment is being violated regardless of region, the courts believe that the Ireland-based cloud storage facility leaves it outside the bounds of the laws that were put in place to prevent these types of arguments in the first place.
Apple and Cisco have also been quoted as saying that the government should turn to the mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) between the US and Ireland, rather than “place the burden of reconciling conflicting international laws squarely on US providers”.
Much like their team effort to appeal to Congress to cut down the out-of-control powers of the NSA last year, the alliance of these firms shows that no matter how insane our government becomes in its never-ending quest to analyze and store all digitized data on the planet, there will always be companies out there who have the legal backing and the righteous sense of how people’s private information should be handled, who can fight back and give Uncle Sam a run for its money when it comes down to the court date.