Defying Feds, MS tries to keep user data private

Woody Leonhard

Microsoft is currently fighting a federal search warrant demanding that the company release emails stored in Ireland.

Here’s why you should be extremely concerned by a U.S. court’s actions — and what you can do about it.

I’ll start with a brief history of the case.

In December 2013, having been shown probable cause, Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of New York James Francis issued a search warrant ordering Microsoft to disclose the contents of a specific email account. (A copy of the warrant and related documents discussed below are posted on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s site.)

While preparing to comply with the warrant, Microsoft discovered that only the account holder’s name, email address, country, and similar information were stored in Microsoft’s U.S.-based servers. The true subjects of the search — the emails — actually sat in a server in Dublin, Ireland (most likely because the person who set up the account told Microsoft that he or she lived outside the U.S.).

As required by the warrant, Microsoft disclosed the details of the account to federal investigators/attorneys — but it refused to divulge the content of the emails because, according to Microsoft, it was outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.

Microsoft filed a motion to quash, but on April 25, Judge Francis denied the motion (EFF posting).

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2014-12-18:

Woody Leonhard

About Woody Leonhard

Woody Leonhard is a Windows Secrets senior editor and a senior contributing editor at InfoWorld. His latest book, the comprehensive 1,080-page Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies, delves into all the Win8 nooks and crannies. His many writings tell it like it is — whether Microsoft likes it or not.