Microsoft Urges Reform of Digital Privacy Laws

December 16, 2014

Verizon, Apple, Amazon among Others Who File Support

Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Microsoft

(Redmond, WA, Tuesday, December 16, 2014) – Microsoft has received support from 28 leading technology and media companies, 35 leading computer scientists and 23 trade associations and advocacy organizations in a legal case that will impact the future of email privacy. Microsoft is challenging the U.S. Government’s attempt to use a search warrant to compel Microsoft to turn over email of a customer stored in Ireland. Seldom do cases below the Supreme Court see this breadth and depth of legal involvement.

Microsoft has for good reason stored private communications such as email, photos and documents in datacenters that are closely located to its customers so that they can retrieve their personal information quickly and securely. When a government wants to obtain email stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects domestic and international laws. In contrast, the U.S. Government’s use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk.

While law enforcement plays a vital role in investigating crimes and keeping our communities safe, Microsoft believes it is key that they do so in a manner that promotes vital privacy protections and builds trust and confidence. The case will be heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York next year. To learn more about the case and the need for reform of digital privacy laws, please visit Microsoft News Center.

Today’s “friend of the court” briefs come from:

  • Leading tech companies such as Verizon, Apple, Amazon, Cisco HP, eBay and AT&T. Also included are the five major tech trade associations that collectively represent most of the country’s technology sector. These groups raise a range of concerns about the significant impact this case could have both on how American tech companies are perceived abroad, and on the privacy rights of global customers.
  • Five of the country’s leading civil liberties organizations from across the political spectrum. Their brief focuses on the significant implications for constitutional and privacy rights of the arguments advanced by the Government and endorsed by the District Court.
  • Thirty-five leading computer science professors from 20 of the country’s leading universities. Their brief seeks to help the court grasp the underlying technology so that it applies the law correctly.
  • Digital Rights Ireland, an organization focused on the protection of privacy in Ireland and the European Union, joined by other European civil liberties groups.  Their filing notes the proper way for the U.S. to obtain information is through use of the mutual legal assistance treaty agreed between the U.S. and Ireland.

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