Microsoft wins major victory in legal fight over data center access

From The Verge:

After years of arguments, Microsoft has won a major victory in its legal fight over US access to information stored in a company data center in Ireland. In a decision filed today by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, judges ruled that US investigators can’t use the Stored Communications Act to compel access to the data, as it is physically located outside of US borders. As a result, the court found that Microsoft has “no remaining lawful obligation to produce materials to the government.”

It’s a major victory for Microsoft, which has maintained that extraterritoriality was necessary to fulfill the company’s privacy policy to users. A number of outside groups made arguments in support for Microsoft’s case, including corporate partners and rivals like AT&T, Verizon, and Apple, as well as privacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and American Civil Liberties Union.

No remaining lawful obligation”

Microsoft argued that because the data was stored in Ireland, it was subject to Irish rather than US law, regardless of the company providing the infrastructure. That feature is central to Microsoft’s ambitions as a cloud provider, allowing the company to compete with local storage companies that are not otherwise subject to US requests. The nationality of the target of the investigation is still undisclosed.

The government’s case focused on Microsoft’s obligations as a company based in the United States. Since the data was easily accessibly to Microsoft and the company itself could be compelled by the CDA, prosecutors argued the company was legally in possession of the data, regardless of international borders. Ultimately, the judges found those arguments unpersuasive.

The question of the physical location of data centers remains a difficult one, as governments look to impose national borders on fundamentally international information networks. In recent years, a number of …

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