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Legal Victory for Global Cloud Storage Providers, Email Privacy

Microsoft's Brad Smith

Microsoft’s Brad Smith

A federal appeals court on Thursday said the U.S. government cannot force Microsoft Corp and other companies to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States, Reuters reported. The U.S. government was seeking emails stored on a Microsoft-owned server in Dublin, Ireland, in a narcotics case.

The ruling is incredibly important to cloud services providers, MSPs and resellers that manage data, email and servers worldwide. “Today’s decision is very important,” Brad Smith, chief legal officer of Microsoft, told Bloomberg during a video interview. “It sends a message that when the U.S. government wants to obtain emails that belong to people who live in other countries, of other nationalities, it needs to work with other governments. It needs to respect international law.”

The ruling is particularly important to the U.S. technology sector, he added, because people will only use technology that they trust. “They can trust U.S. technology today in a way that they didn’t quite trust it yesterday,” he said.

Microsoft is now backing the international communications privacy act, a bill that would allow the U.S. government to use a search warrant to obtain an American’s email regardless of their global location. On the flip side, if there is an Irish citizen in Ireland, the U.S. government would have to work with the Irish government to sort out the situation. The approach would allow each country’s privacy laws to protect their citizens, Microsoft asserts.

The ruling also comes as the U.S. and European Union move forward with the new EU-U.S. Privacy Shield agreement. The agreement defines how data can — and can’t — be used when it flows from Europe to the U.S. The Privacy Shield agreement essentially replaces Safe Harbor, which expired in 2015. Next up, the U.S. and EU must also work out privacy agreements with Britain, which is exiting the EU as part of the Brexit decision.

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