June 23, 2017

U.S. judge orders Google to release foreign emails to aid FBI investigation

07 February 2017, 01:12 | Muriel Sparks

A U.S judge has ordered the tech giant to comply with requests from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to give information in the instances that some customer emails have been stored outside of the US.

This marks a sharp departure from a.ruling in a similar case that involved was determined that [Microsoft] could not be forced to give authorities access to emails stored on a server in.Ireland.wanted in connection with a narcotics case.

According to the judge, transferring emails from a foreign server to United States soil caused "no meaningful interference" with the account holder's "possessory interest" in the information sought by law enforcement, as reported by Reuters.

Google has used Microsoft's case as an example to challenge the ruling by the magistrate and has stated that it will appeal against the decision and "push back on overbroad warrants".

But privacy advocates and tech companies maintain that the SCA does not apply to servers outside the USA, and that more timely rules need to be written to address an environment where data is commonly stored in various places globally.

In July previous year, a court ruled in favour of Microsoft in a similar case. In the Microsoft case, the data requested was stored on Irish servers. They did not specifically know where certain emails might be stored. Rueter of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that the customer emails in question were not protected and Google must surrender the emails. Furthermore, Judge Reuter insisted that any privacy infringement occurs "at the time of disclosure in the United States", not when the information is transferred.

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This is a major problem for Google and the tech industry as a whole, Gizmodo reports since these rulings are being made via laws that have been obsolete for decades.

The precedent Google mentions is that of Microsoft. However, four dissenting judges called on the US Supreme Court or Congress to reverse it, saying the decision hurt law enforcement and raised national security concerns.

According to The Guardian, the recovery of the electronic information by Google from its different server centers overseas has the potential for an intrusion of security and invasion of privacy.

Microsoft instead favored an inter-governmental resolution to the US demand for access to the emails in Dublin, through the use of MLATs the USA has with other countries including Ireland.

As an aside, Magistrate Rueter noted in his opinion that Google each year receives "over 25,000" requests from federal, state, and local entities "seeking the disclosure of user data in criminal matters".

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