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U.S. judge rules search warrants extend to overseas email accounts

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Internet service providers must turn over customer emails and other digital content sought by U.S. government search warrants even when the information is stored overseas, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

 
In what appears to be the first court decision addressing the issue, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York said Internet service providers such as Microsoft Corp or Google Inc cannot refuse to turn over customer information and emails stored in other countries when issued a valid search warrant from U.S. law enforcement agencies.
 
If U.S. agencies were required to coordinate efforts with foreign governments to secure such information, Francis said, "the burden on the government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be seriously impeded."
 
The ruling underscores the debate over privacy and technology that has intensified since the disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about secret U.S. government efforts to collect huge amounts of consumer data around the world.
 
"It showcases an increasing trend that data can be anywhere," said Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University who studies computer crime law.
 
The decision addressed a search warrant served on Microsoft for one of its customers whose emails are stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland.
 
In a statement, Microsoft said it challenged the warrant because the U.S. government should not be able to search the content of email held overseas.
 
"A U.S. prosecutor cannot obtain a U.S. warrant to search someone's home located in another country, just as another country's prosecutor cannot obtain a court order in her home country to conduct a search in the United States," the company said. "We think the same rules should apply in the online world, but the government disagrees."
 
The company plans to seek review of Francis' decision from a federal district judge.
 
Microsoft has recently emphasized to its customers abroad that their data should not be searchable by U.S. authorities and said it would fight such requests.
 
In a company blog post in December, Microsoft's general counsel, Brad Smith, said it would "assert available jurisdictional objections to legal demands when governments seek this type of customer content that is stored in another country."
 
The search warrant in question was approved by Francis in December and sought information associated with an email account for a Microsoft customer, including the customer's name, contents of all emails received and sent by the account, online session times and durations and any credit card number or bank account used for payment.
 
It is unclear which agency issued the warrant, and it and all related documents remain under seal.
 
Microsoft determined that the target account is hosted on a server in Dublin and asked Francis to throw out the request, citing U.S. law that search warrants do not extend overseas.
 
Francis agreed that this is true for "traditional" search warrants but not warrants seeking digital content, which are governed by a federal law called the Stored Communications Act.
 
A search warrant for email information, he said, is a "hybrid" order: obtained like a search warrant but executed like a subpoena for documents. Longstanding U.S. law holds that the recipient of a subpoena must provide the information sought, no matter where it is held, he said.
 
Source: Reuters
 
 

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Interesting. I mean it makes sense, a US company should be subject to US laws and shouldn't be able to find a loophole in simply putting it on a raft and kicking it away from the shore.

Granted the government here considers a warrant to be an outdated concept anyway so...

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Interesting. I mean it makes sense, a US company should be subject to US laws and shouldn't be able to find a loophole in simply putting it on a raft and kicking it away from the shore.

 

They're also trying to subject companies overseas to US laws (see one such example here, though not quite related to the article I posted): 

 

"AACS further points out that the scope of the injunction isn’t too broad at all. According to the company, the Copyright Act allows for such measures in cases where the actions of a foreign business are “felt within the United States.”"

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Granted the government here considers a warrant to be an outdated concept anyway so...

Please define here :)

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Granted the government here considers a warrant to be an outdated concept anyway so...

 

>>insert the obligatory comment: people who mention the 4th amendment must be breaking the law and have something to hide <<

 

(puts on serious face)

 

Combine this latest US court ruling with recent moves to strengthen privacy rights for citizens of the EU and Brazil and you have a payday for non-US owned cloud providers.

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Please define here :)

Well you know, government needs a warrant unless a group of unelected people decide they don't, meaning the warrant is essentially a dead concept to the citizen because none of us can ever know when they'll decide they don't need one. NSA and justice department have repeatedly defended their position as being above the law.

Edited by jarland
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US Government flexing its muscle?

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US Government flexing its muscle?

 

Is a penis technically a muscle?

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Is a penis technically a muscle?

 

Nope, nor is it made of bone ;) Just tissue that's engorged with blood when a man is sexually aroused; that's what makes it stiffen into a "boner". Therefore no amount of flexing will make it grow any bigger-- or impress the ladies. 

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Nope, nor is it made of bone ;) Just tissue that's engorged with blood when a man is sexually aroused; that's what makes it stiffen into a "boner". Therefore no amount of flexing will make it grow any bigger-- or impress the ladies. 

 

Dicks in government must be flexing their limpy then.   We should exempt little blue arousal pills from insurance plans, especially the insurance of government screwballs.

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Seriously, this sort of dick move by the Courts are in line with their other long arm statutes and rulings which give jurisdiction far and broad and even abroad where an entity does business in the US, or is a US company or has other connection or nexxus to US.

 

This is the type of crap I warned about in dealing with Iran service buyers and I refer to here there with things that *could* run afoul of US law.

 

Sucks, but consistent with other practices.  

 

I just wish government would use the same long arm reaching to grab the money these tech companies have stashed abroad in intentional tax structuring that in reality is tax evasion on a massive scale.  Same tech co's use all that to pay lobbyists and other tools to promote tax-free repatriation holidays and other special treatment for their socio-economic class..  But I disgress.

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Is a penis technically a muscle?

 

Sometimes it is :P

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Dicks in government must be flexing their limpy then.   We should exempt little blue arousal pills from insurance plans, especially the insurance of government screwballs.

 

Perhaps give them a cocktail of these instead?

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This is going to put a dent in the marketing efforts of US-based "cloud" companies selling internationally - they've been pushing the idea of non-US locations not just for lower latency but also for legal compliance (data protection etc.) and privacy issues, especially post-Snowden.

 

For example, here in Australia MS was selling the idea of hosting stuff like email in Singapore. 

 

With this ruling showing that to be useless, it's probably not a good time to be working in international sales for US-headquartered companies (or maybe even companies with a US office of any kind).

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The thread title should be changed to: U.S. judge rules search warrants extend to U.S. companies

 

It only makes sense that US-based companies should be governed under US laws. Regardless of the location of the equipment, the equipment is owned by a US company for the purpose of generating revenue inside of the US and the owner of the equipment is required to follow the laws of the country in which the owner resides. Physical equipment does not have residency anywhere nor does it have any rights and thus the owner is the responsible party.

 

Now with that in mind, @drmike is 100% correct that offshore accounts for tax purposes should also be under the same laws but there's a difference between offshore bank accounts and colocated servers, offshore back accounts are hidden behind regulatory guidelines in which the US government cannot legally bypass while colocated mail servers are publicly visible and recorded assets of a company and much easier to find.

 

Microsoft's mail servers = "Here's a detailed record of our assets and here's everything you need to know in order to access it."

Tax evasive bank accounts = "What bank account?"

Edited by KuJoe
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With this ruling showing that to be useless, it's probably not a good time to be working in international sales for US-headquartered companies (or maybe even companies with a US office of any kind).

 

It's just not a good time to be involved with the US in general.

 

If McMegaCorps based in US thought they could creatively work around privacy stuff with offshoring stuff, well I haven't a clue of how much of that hydro they've been smoking out on the West side of the US.  But they were doped up in a big delusional way.  Maybe something SSL based, oh my heartbleed...

 

I mean, they are all in cahoots, tapped, cooperative with government (MicroShaft, Gaggle, Yahblow, Facecrook, et. al.).  How the hell were they funneling packets by the spooks?   Private cable from A-to-B?  Nah... Fiber runs with spooks on ends and in between.  Hell spooks in their own datacenters. Special API's and port mirroring are pretty common for alphabet folks in these places.

 

It's more disaster marketing scams to extort money from honest US citizens and lie to foreign nationals about their international deployments. No, our CLOUD is great, private, BULLSHIT.  Acid rain!

 

We need whistleblower awards to be given including financial awards for outting this corporations and rogue government spy aparatus.

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The thread title should be changed to: U.S. judge rules search warrants extend to U.S. companies

 

 

I actually debated over changing the title when I was about to post, but in the end I decided to go with the original article title instead :)

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Bullshit laws drove the manufacturing out of the USA. Is a Exodus of tech corps in the future?

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As much as I hate MS, I'm glad they are going to stand up, because it's not right to order you to provide information stored in another country.  There are channels for government to government cooperation to make things like this happen.  Considering this does come down to international relations, it should come down to a federal judget in the first place, because those silly New Yorker Judges are the cause of the whole justice system breaking in the first place.

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