The Supreme Court this week announced that it will hear a landmark Internet privacy case dealing with the ability for law enforcement and government officials to access data stored in other countries. The case is called US v. Microsoft and the two have been fighting since 2013.
Four years ago, federal investigators believed they located the e-mail account of a drug trafficker. They obtained a warrant to get data from the Microsoft Outlook account which was registered in Ireland. Microsoft partially complied by handing over information that was stored on its US servers but refused to retrieve any data from Ireland. The case was escalated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York; they sided with Microsoft.
If the Supreme Court was to side against Microsoft, their legal team described the outcome as a "rule for global chaos." It would mean that US officials could access any data they wanted around the world as long as they had a warrant. The legal team went further, stating, "we would go crazy if China did that to us."
The Stored Communications Act was cited in the 2nd Circuit Court's decision. They asserted that data stored in the US could be accessed through the proper legal channels but this does not extend past the border.
The DoJ, on the other hand, is arguing that regulations such as these hamper the government's ability to obtain electronic evidence and fight crime.
Rather than going to the Supreme Court, Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith has campaigned for new privacy legislation from Congress. He argues that current laws are outdated and were designed for floppy disks, not modern cloud computing.