US Magistrates court judge James C. Francis ruled that cloud companies must turn over information to US government agencies regardless of whether that data is held internationally.
Microsoft recently contested a US government search warrant’s access to email data stored overseas in Ireland, with the basis that, according to Microsoft’s corporate VP and general counsel, David Howard, Microsoft’s legal position is that the same limitations on government search powers that exist in the physical world should apply online, “but the government disagrees”. The judge suggested this perspective was too simple.
“The US government doesn’t have the power to search a home in another country, nor should it have the power to search the content of email stored overseas,” wrote Howard. Despite this initial ruling, Microsoft plans to continue this fight for constitutional limits on the reach of government search warrants, but expects many hurdles ahead with the likelihood of ultimately bringing this to a federal court of appeals.
What does this initial ruling mean for cloud computing companies? This re-opens the debate triggered by Snowden which resulted in a new understanding of the US government’s reach. Technology companies seek to ensure data security with new encryptions and moving data to specific locations overseas as an option for data security. If the location where the data is stored does not provide an added level of security from government access this may change strategic direction for cloud companies.