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On the heels of the breach of the pictures of famous celebrities who had their pictures stolen off their iCloud accounts, Microsoft has decided to not comply with a court order to force it to hand over data to the US government for e-mails stored on one of its servers. This is the first reported incident where the company is shown to not be complying with the NSA and its sister departments responsible for the security of the country. The company had until 31 July to hand over the data and it put out a statement this week that listed its reasons for doing so.

The data in question is part of an e-mail database currently sitting on one of Microsoft’s datacenters in Ireland. A warrant was issued by U.S. District Court judge and Microsoft decided to refuse it, causing Judge Loretta Preska to suspend it amidst complaints from other companies in the US and worldwide who argued that trying to seized the data was illegal as it was out of the jurisdiction of the United States.

When the warrant’s suspension was lifted last week Friday, 29 August 2014, Microsoft again refused to honour it. Both Microsoft and the prosecutors representing the US government have until tomorrow, 5 September, to figure out a way to move on before the court does it for them.

“Microsoft will not be turning over the email and plans to appeal,” said the company in a statement reads. “Everyone agrees this case can and will proceed to the appeals court. This is simply about finding the appropriate procedure for that to happen.”

Microsoft is not alone in fighting the warrant. They’ve been backed up by a number of major companies based in the US that offer their services to customers worldwide, all of who have served up briefs to the judge to support Microsoft’s stance. This includes AT&T, Apple, Cisco, Verizon and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

“United States search warrants do not have extraterritorial reach,” EFF lawyer Lee Tien claims. “The government is trying to do an end run.”

The reason why this is such a sensitive and thorny issue is because Microsoft and its compatriots don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law of countries they have services and products in. If  it becomes possible for the US government to extract data from any server in the world so long as it’s owned by Microsoft, that creates a precedent for the same thing to happen to any other company that hosts sensitive information outside of the USA. If this does happen, that also means that it will apply to companies that don’t deal in digital goods or services either.

It’s more than possible that all of these companies had to make backdoors for the NSA to use thanks to the Prism program, but actually acquiring the data legally is another thing all together.

And it if becomes that easy to force companies in the US to hand over information without consulting the laws in the countries that the servers may reside in, then the US government itself will be stepping on the toes of its allies and supporters.

Source: Windows IT Pro

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