Microsoft Loses Court Battle, Has to Turn Over Emails Stored Cloud

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A federal judge ruled on Thursday that Microsoft must comply with turning over information it had been storing in a cloud overseas server. The ruling has been a controversial one, and many cloud technology companies opposed it for the impact it would likely have on the industry. Cloud solutions are what allow companies to access data and software from any location, allowing greater flexibility and more ability to meet consumer demand.

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska ruled that Microsoft had to turn over a users’ email, which related to a narcotics case in New York. The email was being stored on servers in Dublin, Ireland. The case could become an important legal precedent in determining who owns the email we write — us, or the cloud hosting company?

Microsoft argues that email should have the same protections as papers sent by mail. Even though correspondence sent by email is often the same messages sent via typical mail correspondence, police need a warrant to search your mail — this is known as due process. Although the government did have a warrant in this case, a search warrant is not supposed to go beyond U.S. borders, which, of course, it did.

Judge Preska said that this was immaterial since Microsoft controls the email service from the U.S., not Ireland. She believes that there will otherwise be a legal loophole regarding such correspondence and the police’s ability to investigate it.

“Microsoft believes the higher level of legal protection for personal conversations should be preserved for new forms of digital communication, such as emails or text and instant messaging,” wrote Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Microsoft is saying that it will appeal the decision. The ruling comes for a bad time for cloud computing, an industry already hurt by the leaked documents from Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor. It was apparent from the leaked information that U.S. intelligence has infiltrated many cloud hosting services.

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