Wednesday01 February 2023

Microsoft stands their ground over Dublin emails, finds themselves in contempt of court

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It is not often that we can write about a big company like Microsoft and say they are doing “the right thing”. This is even more true in light of the Snowden revelations that showed the close cooperation that Microsoft (and others) had with many data collection programs run by the NSA. Any trust that people had in Microsoft and their drive to protect their customer’s data vanished in an instant. Since those days Microsoft has been working very hard to rebuild consumer trust. They have put SSL and TLS encryption on their email service and have put a few privacy (pronounce that security if you are in government) features in place to help change the public opinion.

Now, to continue their big PR push (and for a few other reasons) Microsoft is standing up to the US Government when it comes to handing over user information. In particular, information that is not stored in servers on US soil. As we have seen in the past the US feels that they have the right to seize information, data, and physical property outside of their borders as long as the suit is filed locally. While there are crimes that justify this type of confiscation they are always done in cooperation with the law enforcement agencies of the country where the information or property is located.

Even in the borderline illegal raid and seizure of Kim Dotcom’s property and MegaUpload data the US Government had to co-opt the New Zealand law enforcement to get things done. They also had to make the case of copyright infringement into one involving money laundering to get the job done.

So when the US Government demanded that Microsoft turn over data for a user that was not contained in any US data centers they rightfully stood their ground (Dublin Ireland). They (Microsoft) claim that the US does not have the power to demand data that is not inside the borders of the US regardless where the company that owns the data has their headquarters. Microsoft has stood their ground on this to the point of actually agreeing to be in contempt of court for refusing to hand over the emails after a US judge said they had to comply.

The latest turn of events is part of a strategy to gain Microsoft the right of appeal while making sure they are not sanctioned for disobeying the judge’s ruling. It is a fairly clever move on their part and surprising considering their stance on cooperation right after Snowden released information on their level of cooperation with the NSA and other US agencies.

In the end Microsoft might still have to give up the emails and comply with the request, but for now it is nice to see them fighting back and forcing law enforcement to follow the proper channels instead of trying to find a back door to get what it wants.

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Last modified on Thursday, 11 September 2014 13:40

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