Barring a treaty between the U.S. and Ireland establishing new policy sanctioning the seizure of private data, Microsoft says it will appeal and protest the court order that's seeking private emails stored on the tech company's servers abroad.
It's all boiling down to two ideas, one of which is Microsoft's firm belief that electronic data belongs to the customer instead of the entity storing the information. Microsoft's compliance with the court order could damage consumer trust in the cloud, it says, adding another reason why the tech company is refusing to hand over the requested data.
The U.S. government has served Microsoft with a search warrant and is seeking information from the emails that could push forward a narcotics investigation.
The subject emails are being stored on cloud servers located in Ireland, which is why Microsoft is arguing that it has no legal obligation to turn over the data to U.S. prosecutors. U.S. search warrants go no farther than the country's borders, unless there's a treaty providing for the expansion of powers into foreign territory.
"We will appeal promptly and continue to advocate that people's emails deserve strong privacy protection in the U.S. and around the world," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, said in a statement. "The only issue that was certain this morning was that the District Court's decision would not represent the final step in this process."
On Aug. 29, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, the case's presiding judge, lifted a stay for the court order directing Microsoft to hand over the emails and ruled that the tech company has no right to appeal.
Microsoft has until Sept. 5 to advise Preska how it intends to move forward with the proceedings, though it notes it intends to appeal the order. If the tech company moves forward along its current route, it could be charged with contempt and then could appeal the contempt ruling and continue to argue against turning over the information.
Along with its philosophy on the status of electronic data, Microsoft says it believes handing over the emails will undo the trust it and other cloud service providers have been building with customers. If the U.S. government seizes a U.S. tech company's data from foreign servers, cloud users will migrate to companies with zero ties to the United States, argues Microsoft.
"In some instances, potential customers have decided not to purchase services from Microsoft and have opted instead for a provider based outside the United States that is perceived as being not subject to U.S. jurisdiction," stated Microsoft in June. "If this trend continues, the U.S. technology sector's business model of providing 'cloud' Internet-based services to enterprises, governments, and educational institutions worldwide will be substantially undermined."