Judges’ Ruling Keeps Fed Out Of Your Inbox, But There’s A Catch


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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Microsoft is not being forced to turn over a customer’s emails stored on a server outside of the U.S. after a federal appeals court effectively refused to reconsider a lower court’s decision.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan voted 4-4 Tuesday, upholding the July decision by a three-judge panel and validating civil liberties concerns about possible privacy violations, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sought access to the electronic communications of a Microsoft customer due to an ongoing narcotics case, reports Reuters.

Microsoft, which has been supported by several other tech companies and privacy advocacy organizations, like the American Civil Liberties Union, protested the DOJ warrant. The conflict soon after went to court. (RELATED: Motley Crew Of Organizations Join Forces, Fight Govt’s Mass Collection Of Personal Data)

Judge Susan Carney said in July that while Microsoft is based in the state of Washington, the emails were stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland, rendering them not subject to U.S. law, namely the federal Stored Communications Act of 1986.

“The panel majority’s decision does not serve any serious, legitimate, or substantial privacy interest,” Judge Jose Cabranes wrote in dissent, according to Reuters.

Cabranes, along with the three other dissenting judges, believe this could obstruct U.S. law enforcement’s ability to conduct criminal investigations. (RELATED: FBI Quietly Gains Remote Access To America’s Computers)

“It has substantially burdened the government’s legitimate law enforcement efforts; created a roadmap for the facilitation of criminal activity; and impeded programs to protect the national security of the United States and its allies,” Cabranes continued, according to Reuters. He added that he hopes an even higher court, or possibly Congress, can reverse this decision through their own mechanisms.

Civil liberties organizations and tech companies consider this a victory (for now) because they want don’t want people to worry about their private data being accessed without a valid warrant.

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