Microsoft rallies support for privacy

Tech companies file briefs in support of Microsoft's privacy stand against US authorities

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Microsoft rallies support for privacy The US government is putting fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk, says Smith.
By  Mark Sutton Published  December 16, 2014

Microsoft has rallied a show of support from the IT industry in its fight against the US Department of Justice over data privacy jurisdictions.

On Monday, 28 American tech firms, with support from 23 trade associations and advocacy groups, and 35 computer scientists at the top 20 universities in the US filed briefs in support of Microsoft with the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, in relation to US prosecutors attempts to get Microsoft to hand over data that is resident in Microsoft data centres outside the US.

The letters of support, which came from companies including Verizon, Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Salesforce, HP, eBay, AT&T, Rackspace, are part of Microsoft's ongoing court case against US authorities. US prosecutors have filed a search warrant to extract emails from systems that are hosted in Microsoft data centres outside of the US, in this case in Dublin, Ireland.

Microsoft says that because the data is hosted in the European Union, not the US, handing over the emails would be in breach of EU law, a viewpoint supported by European officials, and industry supporters.

In July Microsoft asked a US appeals court to hold it in contempt of court, as the company said it had no intention of handing over the data to law enforcement.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith wrote in a blog post yesterday: "This case involves not a narrow legal question, but a broad policy issue that is fundamental to the future of global technology.

"As we've said since this case began, tech companies such as Microsoft for good reason store private communications such as email, photos, and documents in data centres that are located close to our customers. This is so consumers and companies can retrieve their personal information more quickly and securely. For example, we store email in our Irish data centre for customers who live in Europe.

"We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws. In contrast, the US Government's unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk.

"The US has well-established treaties with countries around the world that allow them to seek the information they need while ensuring that citizens of other countries retain the privacy protections offered by their own laws and Courts. And there's ample opportunity for work to modernise these agreements further."

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