The Department of Justice (DOJ) is appealing a landmark court decision that requires information stored on a server in a foreign country to be obtained in accordance with that nation's laws.
In July, a panel of three federal judges ruled that a United States warrant could not compel Microsoft to retrieve emails stored on a server located in Ireland. Traditionally, countries request cooperation from one another in accordance with negotiated treaties to obtain evidence abroad.
The DOJ has filed for a new hearing in front of the full appeals court for the Southern District of New York, arguing that the previous ruling will hamper investigations.
“In the best cases, the Government may be able to obtain this information via the costly, cumbersome and time-consuming process of seeking legal assistance from foreign authorities pursuant to treaties, where available; but in many cases the Government will have no means of obtaining the information at all,” reads the DOJ filing.
“This effect is already harming important investigations, and it has potentially far-reaching consequences.”
Civil libertarians and technology activists celebrated the Microsoft ruling because it added a separate government to serve additional check on authorities' power to collect evidence. Internationally, the ruling was also popular for reaffirming the sovereignty of foreign nations.
The DOJ argues in its filing that since Microsoft can transfer the information at will, without leaving the U.S., the evidence should be covered by a U.S. warrant. And it says that responding to the warrant would not circumvent the privacy of users, because they have no way to know, or control, where their data is stored.