Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Mar 2018 01:00 UTC, submitted by Alfman
Legal

Should the United States government be able to conduct a search of your emails if they are stored on a server in another country, or does the government’s right to examine digital evidence stop at the border?

That is a central question in United States v. Microsoft, a case scheduled to be argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court.

Both sides in the case have legitimate concerns. If the court sides with Microsoft and declines to allow searches for data stored in another country, the government will be hampered in investigating crimes like terrorism, child pornography and fraud.

If the court sides with the government and rules that it may demand data stored overseas by American companies, those companies will find it much harder to do business abroad. This is because many foreigners fear that United States warrants authorizing such searches will disregard privacy protections afforded by their country. The government of Germany, a country with stringent privacy laws, has already indicated it will not use any American company for its data services if the court decides to allow searches.

At this point, I feel like it's just safer to assume all data stored online or sent from one device to the next is essentially not secure in the sense that no one will be able to read if they really wanted to. It's not the way it should be, but I don't think there's a whole lot we can do about it - regardless of the outcome of legal cases such as this one.

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Sticky situation
by jessesmith on Thu 1st Mar 2018 02:18 UTC
jessesmith
Member since:
2010-03-11

I think this is going to be a sticky situation, legally, no matter which way it goes.

If the courts decide Microsoft must hand over their documents because they are, after all, an American company regardless of where the data is stored, then that's going to signal to the world that American companies are not safe to deal with. No one is going to want to risk doing business with a company with offices in the USA if their files must be handed over, regardless of local law.

On the other hand, if the court sides with Microsoft then it signals that American companies can ignore USA laws if they just move their data/processes/dealings to another country. It'll be the tax evasion issue all over again, this time with memos, e-mails and so on.

Either way, it's not going to be pretty, especially for American citizens. They're likely to lose jobs regardless of who wins because either data or jobs will likely be moved overseas.

Personally, I suspect the court is going to side with the DoJ. If they let American companies dodge investigation by simply moving where deals are made and/or documents are stored, then they've opened a massive loophole for all companies to open offices abroad. The ruling will open up a new legal battle between Microsoft and Ireland, but the American courts and DoJ will be fine with letting Microsoft deal with the fallout from that.

Edited 2018-03-01 02:20 UTC

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