In early 2017, the battle between U.S. law enforcement agencies and major tech companies continues to rage on. In February, a Philadelphia Magistrate Judge, ruled against recent precedence, and ordered a Gmail provider to comply with a FBI warrant requesting emails of gmail users stored outside of the U.S.. Google relied on the recent precedence, claiming that turning over emails stored outside of the U.S. places non-U.S. citizens at risk for violations of privacy. However, the judge contended reviewing emails locally that were previously stored on foreign servers and transferred to U.S. servers, does not qualify as a seizure.
The recent precedence Google referred to was a case brought forth by Microsoft in 2016, where the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York held that Microsoft could not be forced to turn over emails stored in Dublin. The tech industry applauded the 2016 decision, but now the recent ruling has some tech giants concerned about their ability to comply with other country’s data protection and privacy laws. Law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. send tens of thousands of warrants to tech companies requesting user’s information. Information that can be stored locally or abroad, for U.S. and non-U.S. citizens alike.
What is the silver lining for this particular ruling? It’s narrowly-tailored…in a way. In the 2016 ruling, Microsoft provided evidence that the information being sought was on foreign servers, however, Google presented no such evidence for this case. In theory, this decision is only enforcing the notion that if a tech company provides evidence of information being stored on foreign servers, that information would be protected. However, as the battle rages on and jurisdictions continue to render decisions that seemingly oppose one another, one thing is for certain: tech giants are going to need lawyers.
Google to Appeal Against Order to Hand Over User Emails Stored Outside U.S., The Guardian, (Feb. 6, 2017 at 5:41), https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/06/google-gmail-to-appeal-against-order-to-hand-over-user-emails-stored-outside-us.