The US appeals court has stood by its decision to deny the DoJ’s request to access emails stored in a Microsoft data center in Ireland.
The battle over the emails dates back to 2013, when the Department of Justice tried to get its hands on the email of a drug trafficking suspect, but met legal resistance from Microsoft in the wake of Snowden’s NSA revelations.
Next stop: Congress?
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was split in a 4-4 vote this week, leaving the previous decision in place.
Judge Susan Carney, who voted in favor of keeping the decision, pointed to the US Stored Communications Act (SCA) which doesn’t allow worldwide searches under a US warrant.
She continued: “And it is for just this sort of reason that the government has in other circumstances taken a position, somewhat in tension with the one it takes here, that courts should be particularly solicitous of sovereignty concerns when authorizing data to be collected in the US but drawn from within the boundaries of a foreign nation.”
Carney did acknowledge, however, that the SCA, at 31 years old, is rather outdated: “We recognize at the same time that in many ways the SCA has been left behind by technology.
“It is overdue for a congressional revision that would continue to protect privacy but would more effectively balance concerns of international comity with law enforcement needs and service provider obligations in the global context in which this case arose.”
Judge Jose Cabranes, who was against the decision, said that the ruling “indisputably, and severely, restricted an essential investigative tool used thousands of times a year in important criminal investigations around the country.”
“To top this off, the panel majority’s decision does not serve any serious, legitimate, or substantial privacy interest.”
Microsoft president and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said: “We need Congress to modernize the law both to keep people safe and ensure that governments everywhere respect each other’s borders.
“This decision puts the focus where it belongs, on Congress passing a law for the future rather than litigation about an outdated statute from the past.”
Microsoft has also teamed up with several other tech giants to sue the DoJ for forcing it to keep requests for customer data secret.