Google no longer contesting most cross border data warrants

Google no longer contesting most cross border data warrants
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In a move noted by the Department of Justice in a Supreme Court filing and confirmed by Google on Friday, the search engine giant said it would begin abiding by newly-issued, controversial warrants for internationally stored data in most circumstances.

Both Microsoft and Google had been refusing to provide data including customer emails stored in servers in Ireland and other foreign countries unless the United States got the permission of the foreign country — the accepted process used to request physical evidence. 

Different courts had ruled in different ways on this issue. Microsoft won its case in the 2nd Circuit, covering Connecticut, New York and Vermont. Google had lost its cases elsewhere but had been refusing to cooperate pending appeals and possible congressional reform. 

"In the wake of those decisions, Google has reversed its previous stance and informed the government that it will comply with new ... warrants outside the Second Circuit [while suggesting that it will appeal the adverse decisions in one or more existing cases]," wrote acting Solicitor General Jeffery Wall in this weeks filing, urging the Supreme Court to review the Microsoft 2nd Circuit case. 

A Google spokesman confirmed this was its new position.

Tech companies argue that data on foreign servers is in a foreign jurisdiction — providing it could be violating another nation's laws. If the situations were reversed, U.S. law would prohibit a company from providing data from a domestic server in response to a foreign warrant. 

The Department of Justice argues that the data may be stored on a foreign server, but if the company can access the data from within the United States, the search and seizure would both take place here.

The process to obtain foreign assistance to serve a warrant can be time-consuming on the order of years. 

Both the House and the Senate have held recent hearings on clarifying how the Justice Department can request data from foreign servers. Those hearings also addressed the law preventing U.S. companies from cooperating with foreign warrants, which countries like the United Kingdom hope the U.S. will abolish. 

- This report was updated at 5:33 p.m.