As you probably know by now, Microsoft has been involved in a lengthy battle with the US government over a case where an Irish citizen (thought to be an alleged Silk Road leader) held documents in a Microsoft controlled data center, but on Irish soil. Today, it has been announced that Microsoft has won part of this case, as the US Justice Department’s appeal was denied (via Seattle Times.)
According to multiple reports, in a 4-4 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider and take up the Justice Department’s appeal of Microsoft’s July victory in the case. This is a huge win for Microsoft, which believed that the government’s warrants for contents of an Irish email account related to a drug-trafficking investigation exceeded domestic authority. The US Government, nonetheless, believed that it had due right to ask Microsoft to pull customer data, citing the 1986 Federal Stored Communications Act in their argument.
The decision is being noted as a win for privacy. Several other companies and organizations have supported Microsoft’s position, including, Amazon.com, Apple, CNN, Fox News Network and Verizon Communications, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Dissenting judges in the case said that decision by a three-judge panel could hamstring law enforcement, and called on the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress to reverse it. As noted by Reuters, Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes hoped that the panel’s view of the 1986 law “can be rectified” and wrote in the decision:
“The panel majority’s decision does not serve any serious, legitimate, or substantial privacy interest… It has substantially burdened the government’s legitimate law enforcement efforts; created a roadmap for the facilitation of criminal activity; and impeded programs to protect the national security of the United States and its allies…”
In a statement, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith reflected on the results of the case. He said,
“This decision puts the focus where it belongs, on Congress passing a law for the future rather than litigation about an outdated statute from the past.”
On the opposing side of things, The U.S. Justice Department said that it is considering options. Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman said,
“We are reviewing the decision and its multiple dissenting opinions and considering our options.”
Whose side do you stand on in this debate? Sound off and let us know what you think by dropping us a comment below!Further reading: Microsoft, privacy, US Government, US Justice Department