Microsoft (MSFT) is staying committed in its fight against legal demands from U.S. authorities to access the contents of one of its customer’s emails stored exclusively on a cloud server located in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft’s chief legal officer Brad Smith, stated in a WSJ op-ed Tuesday night that Microsoft will oppose the U.S. government’s request to access customer email content at a hearing in federal court on Thursday in New York. Brad argues that such requests could open the door to future federal Fourth Amendment violations.
“Microsoft believes you own emails stored in the cloud, and that they have the same privacy protection as paper letters sent by mail”, Smith wrote. “This means, in our view, that the U.S. government can obtain emails only subject to the full legal protections of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. It means, in this case, that the U.S. government must have a warrant. But under well-established case law, a search warrant cannot reach beyond U.S. shores.”
Smith said the feds are seeking to sidestep these rules, claiming that “emails you store in the cloud cease to belong exclusively to you.”
In court filings, the feds argue “that your emails become the business records of a cloud provider. Because business records have a lower level of legal protection, the government claims that it can use its broader authority to reach emails stored anywhere in the world.”
Microsoft’s top lawyer noted that according to a recent poll by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, 83% of American voters believe personal information stored in the cloud deserves the same protections as personal information stored on paper.
In a speech last month, Mr. Smith, who in a Dec. 4 post on Microsoft’s official blog labeled the U.S. government as an “advanced persistent threat”, complained against the secret U.S. surveillance court, saying we are facing a “bleak” future if more isn’t done to protect individuals’ private data.
Mr. Smith has become tech’s point man taking on the NSA by placing himself at the center of the post-Snowden offensive. Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA, exposed the NSA’s snooping practices to the American people back in 2013.