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Microsoft has been held in contempt of court for refusing to let the US government access customer emails stored outside US borders.

A US court has been insisting that Microsoft hands over the data, which is stored in its Dublin, Ireland facility, but Microsoft has refused, arguing that the request is not legal since the emails are held outside US borders.

In a comment on its Digital Constitution site - set up to detail the ongoing overseas court case – Microsoft stated that the company would not face prosecution at this stage.

“The government has demanded that Microsoft turn over customer emails held in its data center in Dublin, Ireland. While the order today holds the company in contempt for not complying with the court’s previous ruling to turn over the emails in question, it does not impose any sanctions while the case proceeds to the appellate court, as agreed to by the parties,” Microsoft said in the post.

Microsoft was ordered on July 31 by chief US district judge Loretta Preska  to hand over a customer’s emails and account information stored in its data center in Dublin, Ireland.

Throughout the ongoing legal trial Microsoft has publicly refused to comply with US government and court orders to seize customer emails in the Irish facility as it isn’t within US borders.

In June Microsoft general counsel and EVP of legal & corporate affairs Brad Smith said in a company blog post that the US government needs to recognize that US search warrants end at US borders.

Microsoft is part of a group of companies looking to review the laws and practices regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information, set up after leaks by former defense contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of government surveillance of online communications.

The Reform Government Surveillance group is supported by companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Yahoo!

The group sent a letter signed by the companies CEO’s to the US Senate around the first anniversary of when the NSA scandal broke.

The group has set out five key principles:
- Limiting government’s authority to collect users’ information
- Oversight and accountability
- Transparency about government demands
- Respecting the free flow of information
- Avoiding conflicts among governments.