Microsoft Fights for Customers’ Privacy in the U.S. Supreme Court


On Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will take on the argument between the federal government and Microsoft over the privacy of its customers’ information. The issue? Can Microsoft be forced to turn over emails stored on servers overseas?

Privacy advocates believe that if the federal government wins it would cause a problem. Any country would be able to retrieve information stored anywhere in the world.

However, a win for Microsoft would create a haven for information. There would be places where evidence for serious crimes could be hidden from governments, according to the Department of Justice.

In 2013, federal officials served a search warrant at Microsoft headquarters. Agents were looking for the contents of an account owned by they believed was being used to traffic drugs. Microsoft was unable to comply because the emails were stored on servers in Dublin.

Microsoft has information centers in 40 different countries around the world. The federal officials would have to ask Ireland for the information.

According to the Department of Justice, the internet company could pull up the data from its headquarters. This means the search occurs where Microsoft hands over the information, not where the information is stored.

In a Supreme Court brief, Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote, “Any invasion of privacy occurs only when Microsoft divulges a user’s communications to the government and the government examines those communications for evidence of a crime.” The search warrants grants the government this authority. If it did not work this way, then internet providers could move information out of the reach of U.S. officials by storing data in other countries.

According to Microsoft, the search occurs where the information is stored, not where the computer operator sits. It does not matter if its staff is performing the information retrieval, they are acting under the order of the court, therefore the search is not a private act. Chief Legal Officer stated, “We believe that people’s privacy rights should be protected by the laws of their own countries, and we believe that information stored in the cloud should have the same protections as paper stored in your desk.”

Privacy groups are siding with Microsoft, reminding the government that if they win, any government can obtain any information in any other country, including the U.S.

By Jeanette Smith


NBC News: Government battles Microsoft in email privacy case before Supreme Court

Image Courtesy of Thomas Hawk’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

3 Responses to "Microsoft Fights for Customers’ Privacy in the U.S. Supreme Court"

  1. WhytoChoose   March 26, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    So Microsoft wants to safeguard peoples privacy and supreme court is against it? cant understand the logic here.

  2. Bernadette   March 6, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    As a computer consultant I see quite a few malfunctioning systems. The troublesome part though is that in the last year those malfunctioning computers resulted from one crypto-virus issue. All the rest were computers that had ceased to function because of some kind of Microsoft update. Luckily, precious few of my customers want Windows 10 so I only need to support a handful of unfortunate Win 10 users, but they make up the bulk of my “emergency calls. Let”s face it folks, Windows 10 will be the death of Windows. Every bad idea at Microsoft seems to stem from Win 10. Win 7 was fine until the same brain dead individuals involved with Win 10 (and 8/8.1) decided to trickle down the win 10 garbage to Win 7. Let”s get back to granular updates. Let”s return to well laid out menus and start bars. Let”s kill all that telemetry for good. Let”s really kill Cortana. And let”s stop thinking a desktop operating system has anything to do with a fluff phone operating system. Heck, windows phone couldn”t even make it as a phone operating system. Why a company would bet the farm on a failed project like windows Phone totally eludes me. I”m really curious to see what Microsoft does in 2020 when windows 7 still holds 47% of the user base. And no, I don”t think that”s an unrealistic percentage. The Win 10 “HATE I see every day will translate into a definite roadblock for Microsoft. Boy have they squandered their goodwill and reputation.

  3. Jim Sanders   March 1, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Well written article. Microsoft has been one of the best Tech companies. You should keep fighting for peoples right.


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