U.S. v. Microsoft

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U.S. v. Microsoft

The ongo­ing con­flict between an individual’s pri­vacy and the pub­lic inter­est heads to the U.S. Supreme Court when the jus­tices hear oral argu­ments in a law­suit in which Microsoft refuses to turn over data in a drug case.

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion does not include the actual word pri­vacy, but the Fourth Amend­ment, which pre­vents ille­gal searches and seizures, has become the basis for the def­i­n­i­tion of the issue.

DaTech3.jpg

This case involves Microsoft’s dis­pute with fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors over whether it must pro­vide data hosted in a stor­age facil­ity in Ire­land. The dis­pute focuses on whether U.S. courts can com­pel a com­pany to turn over an individual’s data when it is held overseas.

Sim­ply put, the deci­sion revolves around where “the cloud” exists. Cloud tech­nol­ogy has become worth an esti­mated $250 billion.

If Microsoft wins, sup­port­ers will laud the deci­sion as a vic­tory for pri­vacy. If the gov­ern­ment wins, it will be seen as a vic­tory of law enforce­ment. As usual, the truth lies some­where in between. The com­pany knows it will lose busi­ness if it can­not guar­an­tee pri­vacy to cus­tomers – much like the bankers who house drug money. The gov­ern­ment as is its want is likely to over­step the bound­aries if it wins.

The case has drawn exten­sive inter­est, includ­ing numer­ous briefs to the Supreme Court from abroad.

The show­down is unfold­ing on sev­eral fronts. Leg­is­la­tion in Con­gress would par­tially resolve dis­putes over law enforce­ment access to pri­vate data held across bor­ders. The bills would oblig­ate ser­vice providers to turn mate­r­ial over to pros­e­cu­tors under cer­tain con­di­tions regard­less of where in the world the mate­r­ial is stored.

Still, some mys­tery sur­rounds the legal dis­pute that was argued today in Supreme Court cham­bers. For one, pros­e­cu­tors have never iden­ti­fied the per­son who was tar­geted in a war­rant issued by a New York Dis­trict Court judge in 2013.

Pros­e­cu­tors demanded that Microsoft turn over all emails and infor­ma­tion asso­ci­ated with the subject’s account, and the com­pany responded that it could not be forced to turn over infor­ma­tion stored over­seas — in this case at a data cen­ter in Dublin.

Alter­na­tively, pros­e­cu­tors out­side of the United States com­plain about obsta­cles to con­duct­ing inves­ti­ga­tions of crim­i­nal sus­pects using U.S.-based webmail.

The cops in Brazil and the cops in India and the cops in France, all of the cops in the world, want to issue nor­mal evi­dence orders in accor­dance with local law and they are frus­trated or stymied by Amer­i­can rules,” Andrew Woods, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Ken­tucky Col­lege of Law, told Tim John­son of the McClatchy Wash­ing­ton Bureau.

Woods cited a hypo­thet­i­cal case in which a Lon­doner is a sus­pect in the mur­der of a fel­low Brit, a crime inves­ti­gated by local police.

Every­thing about that case is British,” Woods said, but police “can­not go to Google and com­pel Google to give them con­tent of the suspect’s email account. They have to go through the mutual legal assis­tance process. That is not only slow it is also an affront to British sovereignty.”

The U.S. gov­ern­ment has struck mutual legal assis­tance treaties, or MLATs, with about a third of the world’s coun­tries. The mech­a­nism, while use­ful, has its flaws.

Loom­ing behind the debate is Edward Snow­den, the for­mer National Secu­rity Agency con­trac­tor who stole secrets about U.S. sur­veil­lance pro­grams in 2013 before flee­ing to Moscow.

In the wake of the Snow­den rev­e­la­tions, lev­els of trust around the world in the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment went down,” Woods said. “Amer­i­can busi­nesses ever since have been scram­bling to reas­sure cus­tomers around the world that they resist the Amer­i­can government.”

The deci­sion is expected to be announced in June.

For more on the case, see http://​www​.sco​tus​blog​.com/​c​a​s​e​-​f​i​l​e​s​/​c​a​s​e​s​/​u​n​i​t​e​d​-​s​t​a​t​e​s​-​v​-​m​i​c​r​o​s​o​f​t​-​corp/

The ongoing conflict between an individual’s privacy and the public interest heads to the U.S. Supreme Court when the justices hear oral arguments in a lawsuit in which Microsoft refuses to turn over data in a drug case.

The U.S. Constitution does not include the actual word privacy, but the Fourth Amendment, which prevents illegal searches and seizures, has become the basis for the definition of the issue.

DaTech3.jpg

This case involves Microsoft’s dispute with federal prosecutors over whether it must provide data hosted in a storage facility in Ireland. The dispute focuses on whether U.S. courts can compel a company to turn over an individual’s data when it is held overseas.

Simply put, the decision revolves around where “the cloud” exists. Cloud technology has become worth an estimated $250 billion.

If Microsoft wins, supporters will laud the decision as a victory for privacy. If the government wins, it will be seen as a victory of law enforcement. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. The company knows it will lose business if it cannot guarantee privacy to customers–much like the bankers who house drug money. The government as is its want is likely to overstep the boundaries if it wins.

The case has drawn extensive interest, including numerous briefs to the Supreme Court from abroad.

The showdown is unfolding on several fronts. Legislation in Congress would partially resolve disputes over law enforcement access to private data held across borders. The bills would obligate service providers to turn material over to prosecutors under certain conditions regardless of where in the world the material is stored.

Still, some mystery surrounds the legal dispute that was argued today in Supreme Court chambers. For one, prosecutors have never identified the person who was targeted in a warrant issued by a New York District Court judge in 2013.

Prosecutors demanded that Microsoft turn over all emails and information associated with the subject’s account, and the company responded that it could not be forced to turn over information stored overseas—in this case at a data center in Dublin.

Alternatively, prosecutors outside of the United States complain about obstacles to conducting investigations of criminal suspects using U.S.-based webmail.

“The cops in Brazil and the cops in India and the cops in France, all of the cops in the world, want to issue normal evidence orders in accordance with local law and they are frustrated or stymied by American rules,” Andrew Woods, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, told Tim Johnson of the McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Woods cited a hypothetical case in which a Londoner is a suspect in the murder of a fellow Brit, a crime investigated by local police.

“Everything about that case is British,” Woods said, but police “cannot go to Google and compel Google to give them content of the suspect’s email account. They have to go through the mutual legal assistance process. That is not only slow it is also an affront to British sovereignty.”

The U.S. government has struck mutual legal assistance treaties, or MLATs, with about a third of the world’s countries. The mechanism, while useful, has its flaws.

Looming behind the debate is Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who stole secrets about U.S. surveillance programs in 2013 before fleeing to Moscow.

“In the wake of the Snowden revelations, levels of trust around the world in the American government went down,” Woods said. “American businesses ever since have been scrambling to reassure customers around the world that they resist the American government.”

The decision is expected to be announced in June.

For more on the case, see http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/united-states-v-microsoft-corp/