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Microsoft Communications Government Privacy The Courts

Microsoft Defies Court Order, Will Not Give Emails To US Government 419

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-didn't-say-pretty-please dept.
schwit1 sends this excerpt from a report about Microsoft: Despite a federal court order directing Microsoft to turn overseas-held email data to federal authorities, the software giant said Friday it will continue to withhold that information as it waits for the case to wind through the appeals process. The judge has now ordered both Microsoft and federal prosecutors to advise her how to proceed by next Friday, September 5.

Let there be no doubt that Microsoft's actions in this controversial case are customer-centric. The firm isn't just standing up to the US government on moral principles. It's now defying a federal court order. "Microsoft will not be turning over the email and plans to appeal," a Microsoft statement notes. "Everyone agrees this case can and will proceed to the appeals court. This is simply about finding the appropriate procedure for that to happen."
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Microsoft Defies Court Order, Will Not Give Emails To US Government

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  • re I don't care (Score:5, Informative)

    by jelizondo (183861) <jerry.elizondo@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @08:48PM (#47793291)

    Frankly, I don't care if MS is standing up out of self-interest or for some other cause, the tyrants in D.C. need to be stopped. Period.

    You can't apply U.S. laws to the world at large, regardless of your 'legal' standing.

    Many U.S. organizations have presence and pay taxes in many different jurisdictions, making them subject to that particular territory's law. Will the U.S. allow some other country to violate U.S. laws because the subsidiary is present, in say, Aman and thus, by extension, the entire organization is subject to Aman's Law?

    The answer is no, because jurisdiction is territorial. You can't apply Ireland's law to MS in the U.S. simply because they have a corporate office there, thus the reverse is true too: you can' t apply U.S. law to a subsidiary in Ireland.

    Who owns it is irrelevant; corporations are legal entities of their own, regardless of ownership. Ships owned by, say Americans (most cruise ships for example), are registered in Panama, thus bypassing U.S. Labor laws because who owns them is irrelevant.

    Trust me, you don't want to go there: it will open lawsuits against U.S. firms, under U.S. laws, against the owners of such ships and other corporations that use underage labor, exceed working hours / conditions, etc. in other countries.

    It would basically make International Law obsolete as we know it.

    It appears that the U.S. Government is bent in destroying the American economy while 'preserving' American security.

  • by debrain (29228) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @09:11PM (#47793363) Journal

    Notwithstanding some really rare cases (e.g. interlocutory), which this does not appear to be, an order is unenforceable while under appeal.

    Doing what an order asks is grounds for dismissal of an appeal, notwithstanding cases where acts are made explicitly with the agreement of the parties and sometimes affirmation of the court to be without prejudice to the right of appeal. However in cases of disclosure of information, the disclosure is generally a form of prejudice (since it cannot be undone) that undermines appellate entitlement.

    So it is wrong to say they are are defying an order. They are doing what everyone does on appeal.

    If they were to defy an order they could be held in contempt of court. That would be an interesting story.

  • by rsborg (111459) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @09:24PM (#47793407) Homepage

    The US legal system starts and ENDS at the US borders.

    Microsoft is headquartered and incorporated in the US and thus subject to US law. QED.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @10:13PM (#47793581)

    Notwithstanding some really rare cases (e.g. interlocutory), which this does not appear to be, an order is unenforceable while under appeal.

    Doing what an order asks is grounds for dismissal of an appeal, notwithstanding cases where acts are made explicitly with the agreement of the parties and sometimes affirmation of the court to be without prejudice to the right of appeal. However in cases of disclosure of information, the disclosure is generally a form of prejudice (since it cannot be undone) that undermines appellate entitlement.

    So it is wrong to say they are are defying an order. They are doing what everyone does on appeal.

    If they were to defy an order they could be held in contempt of court. That would be an interesting story.

    Actually, the judge lifted the freeze on the court order, so Microsoft is in fact defying it. Microsoft states they plan to appeal, but until they do appeal, they are still defying it.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @10:47PM (#47793681)

    The government could almost certainly get this data by going through the proper procedures in Ireland.

    Maybe not. If the Irish government caves in to American pressure, then data centers will start leaving Ireland, taking money and jobs with them, just like they are already leaving America. If Microsoft loses this case, and the extra-territorial reach of American Law is upheld, then, if you want privacy, you will need to not only store your data outside America, but not even with a company that does business there. The American government cares more about reading our mail than about keeping our jobs.

  • by doginthewoods (668559) on Sunday August 31, 2014 @12:46AM (#47793999)
    The US is in a weak position, because in order to create a uniform standard of international law to address this sort of thing, the US will have to work as an equal with other countries who are already suspicious of US motives. The US knows this, which is why they are trying to bulldoze their way through this. The issue here is international law, and the laws of other countries involved. The HUGE problem is this: If MS is forced to turn over the data that is in another country (and possibly causing MS to violate the laws of that country) , then another country, using exactly the same ruling, could force a US company to obey its laws. Here's and example: Russia finds a worm , virus, whatever in some software that it's government is using, and that their data was stolen. Russian law allows confiscation of all computer hardware and the people involved held in jail until trial in Russia. The Russian government decides that the infection was present in software that was on the computer at the time of purchase, and as a result that company must have Russia's data, so now Russia can send its enforcers over here and confiscate..... Ooops. What MS is doing is trying to prevent a very shortsighted US ruling of opening a Pandora's box that can be used against the US.
  • Re:customer-centric (Score:4, Informative)

    by Demena (966987) on Sunday August 31, 2014 @01:33AM (#47794099)
    Excuse me but you appear to be mistaken. it is written in the US constitution that international treaties become part of US law. Where that introduces contradictions the treaty law applies. And judges have to repeat this. It may not apply in this particular case but it remains true.
  • Re:customer-centric (Score:5, Informative)

    by nabsltd (1313397) on Sunday August 31, 2014 @03:10AM (#47794267)

    But if it was an American, residing on European soil, there would be extradition procedures to follow. And those would involve having the local (EU) police generate their own warrant and make their own arrest based upon a formal request.

    If you had followed this case, you would know that this is exactly what the US tried to do.

    The US asked an Irish court to issue a warrant to force production of the data. The Irish court refused to issue the warrant. So, the US issued a subpoena to Microsoft, who rightly told the US that although the data was on a Microsoft computer, the data was owned by a customer of Microsoft, therefore a warrant would be required. The US court then issued a warrant for Microsoft to produce the data. Microsoft refused, noting that the data was in a foreign country, and warrants are only valid when issued by a court that has jurisdiction over the location of the requested object/data/person. No US court has jurisdiction over Irish soil, thus we end up at today's story.

    The actual point of Microsoft's appeal is that the US wants to have a court to be able to issue an order that has the all the advantages of both a warrant and a subpoena, while ignoring their limitatations. The problem with this is that subpoenas are allowed to be fairly vague and apply to anything that is "owned" by the target of the subpoena, regardless of where it is located. Warrants, OTOH, can force the target to hand over something they don't own but over which they have control, but can only request very specific items/data, and have to be issued by a court that has jurisdiction over where the item/data is located.

  • Re:customer-centric (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT com> on Sunday August 31, 2014 @04:41AM (#47794433) Homepage

    The data belongs to a US company, and is on servers which US based employees have access to. Those employees are beholden to US laws, and should retrieve the data if directed to do so by a US court.
    Also the Irish company is a subsidiary of the US company. The Irish employees don't have to obey US law, but they do have to obey their bosses who in turn do have to obey US law.
    So long as the data is stored on servers operated by an organisation which has a chain of command extending upwards in the US, they are beholden to the demands of the US government. The opposite probably wouldn't apply, as the Irish employees wouldn't have seniority over the US and thus couldn't compel them to do anything.

    If they don't like it, the Irish part could be spun off as an entirely separate entity free of US control.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday August 31, 2014 @12:17PM (#47795557)

    Could you give an example of a more secure platform?

    Sure. Any e-mail system which has users encrypt/decrypt their content locally and then use the storage and transport system solely for storage and transport Slap some directory and key management for (public keys only) on top of that and there you go.

    You (the gov't) subpoena the content from the service provider? Sure, here's an encrypted copy. We don't have anything else. Need that decryption key? Go see the sender or recipient. We don't have that.

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