With unintended foresight, the Rolling Stones may have penned a protest song for a new generation. The latest ruling by a US Court, the second on this case, upholds that the US Government is entitled to open further the Pandora’s box of data access beyond its boundaries. Microsoft Corp must turn over a customer’s emails stored in a Data Center in Ireland to the US government. A US judge ruled that the warrant lawfully required the company to hand over any data it controlled, regardless of where it was stored.
Microsoft and a host of other large US-based IT Companies* have chosen to contest the warrant, fearing that it may severely restrict the use of their cloud services with European customers as those customers become increasingly aware of how insecure their personal data really is. Twitter and other social media sites are similarly concerned and the Snowden revelations about widespread National Security Agency surveillance will only fuel the fire.
The decision, if it stands, represents a further reversal for the US internet industry, according to legal experts. Never mind that in March the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for it to stay the "safe harbor" agreement with the United States, nor US company attempts at using Branch structures to protect user privacy (and their tax); this development represents an “astounding” violation of non-US sovereignty (as Joshua Rosenkranz, a lawyer for Microsoft, suggested).
We agree. This ruling should have focused primarily on the rights of the information creators and owners, not on where the information is controlled. For criminals, then bi-lateral information sharing agreements enable access for security services. For the rest of the population, our rights to privacy should be upheld.
In this case it is personal emails, but where will this stop? These personal emails are generated by the people living in Europe, not by US residents. So, why did the judge reason the US government had a right to sneak through the emails generated by people living in Europe? "It's about who controls the information, not where it is," the judge explained - a phrase that UK businesses, government agencies and individuals should well remember.
* AT&T Inc, Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and Verizon Communications Inc all submitted court briefs in support of Microsoft, along with the privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. The companies are worried they could lose billions of dollars in revenue to foreign competitors if customers fear their data is subject to seizure by US investigators anywhere in the world. Microsoft has previously said it will allow users to choose where their data is stored; now they are consideringtheir options.
Foot Note: Icon UK only uses UK** located and controlled Data Centres for the provision of all Software capabilities that are used by our End Clients. We take your privacy and security seriously.
** or European by client request