Microsoft is due back in court to continue fighting against the US government’s demand that it hands over emails stored in one of its data centres in Dublin, Ireland.
The US government claims that the files it requires are messages related to the sale of illegal drugs. A court has already ruled in favour of the government’s claims back in 2014, simply because Microsoft is a US company and this gives its government control on the international plane.
However, Microsoft continues to argue that the US government “must respect the sovereignty of other countries” and has suggested the US consult legal assistance treaties in order to directly access data held in territory outside the US.
It seems clear that there is more at stake in this case than just Microsoft’s desire to protect this one dataset in this one country – the outcome of this case could easily become a precedent for similar cases on an ongoing basis, and affect the development of cloud computing.
“If the US government is permitted to serve warrants on tech companies in the United States and obtain people’s emails in any country, it will open the floodgates for other countries to serve warrants on tech companies for the private communications of American citizens that are stored in the United States in a data centre owned by a foreign company,” said Microsoft’s lawyer on the case, Brad Smith.
Apple, Amazon, eBay, HP, Salesforce and Verizon have already voiced support for Microsoft.
Microsoft has always made significant play of its apparent respect for customers’ privacy as a marketing tool when compared to companies such as Google – such as in its <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.computing.co.uk%2Fctg%2Fnews%2F2242594%2Fmicrosoft-accuses-google-of-invasion-of-privacy-with-scroogled-campaign%22%3E%22Scroogled" campaign of a couple of years back (which, however, soon left it with egg on its face as it transpired mid-campaign that Microsoft had been spying on its own bloggers).
Microsoft has stated in relation to the case that it wants to make sure people can “trust the technology on their desks and in their pockets”.
It’s potentially even more important that Microsoft is seen to be fighting for the privacy of its users right now, too, as the recently-launched Windows 10 continues to be dogged with a pervading feel that Microsoft is reporting more user data back to its own company servers than it is really letting on.
These include, in particular, “virtual assistant” software Cortana, which demands a host of user data, right down to individual keystroke logs, be sent back to Redmond.