Judge rules against Microsoft in email privacy case

The company is compelled to comply with a U.S. warrant for emails held on a server in Ireland, a judge rules

A U.S. district court judge has ruled against Microsoft in the company's effort to oppose a U.S. government search warrant for emails stored in Ireland.

On Thursday, Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rejected the company's appeal of an earlier ruling requiring it to turn over emails stored in the company's facility in Dublin. Preska ruled that Microsoft will not have to turn over the emails while it files an appeal.

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Preska, in an oral ruling from the bench, sided with a magistrate judge's April ruling quashing Microsoft's opposition to the warrant, related to a criminal case, from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Microsoft will appeal Preska's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the company said. Microsoft has argued that the DOJ has no authority to issue warrants related to emails stored outside the U.S.

"The only issue that was certain this morning was that the district court's decision would not represent the final step in this process," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said in a statement. "We will appeal promptly and continue to advocate that people's email deserves strong privacy protection in the U.S. and around the world."

U.S. law has long required search warrants to name the specific location of the information they seek, instead of requiring a company receiving the warrant to search multiple locations for the information, as has happened in the Ireland case, Microsoft has argued. U.S. search warrants also haven't been able to reach overseas, just as U.S. residents wouldn't want foreign courts to be able to search domestic locations, Smith has said.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York has opposed Microsoft's attempts to invalidate the warrant. If Microsoft's interpretation of the law is upheld, Web services providers could move content around the world in an effort to avoid law enforcement requests, Bharara wrote in a brief to the court.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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