May 21, 2024

Why Google was told to hand over emails stored overseas to the FBI


What do Google and Microsoft have in common?

Well, a lot. But more recently, both companies have gone to court against FBI orders to hand over customer information stored outside the U.S. But the judges in each case have come back with differing decisions.

In IT Blogwatch, we’ll see you in court.

So what is going on? Michelle Meyers has the background:

A U.S. judge reportedly ruled…that Google has to comply with an FBI search warrant seeking customer emails stored on a foreign server.

The FBI warrant…stems from a domestic fraud investigation…U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter in Philadelphia reportedly ruled that transferring emails from a foreign server for FBI agents to review…locally “did not qualify as a seizure” because there was “no meaningful interference” with the account holder’s “possessory interest” in the data sought.

And where does Microsoft come into this whole thing? Lulu Chang has the details:

This marks a sharp departure from a…ruling in a similar case that involved Microsoft…it was determined that [Microsoft] could not be forced to give authorities access to emails stored on a server in…Ireland…wanted in connection with a narcotics case.

Judge Rueter’s…ruling…may not stand, particularly as it goes against the precedent set…in the Microsoft case. That decision was largely applauded by tech companies, privacy groups,…the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But why did the judges rulings diverge? Charlie Osborne explains:

The issue at hand for both companies is the Stored Communications Act, which restricts the disclosure of wire and electronic stored information held by Internet Service Providers…While the…judges involved in Microsoft’s case ascertained that the act was not designed to apply outside of the U.S., it appears…in Google’s case, the judge disagrees.

So what is Google’s next play here? Carl Velasco is in the know:

Google…has intentions to appeal the ruling, releasing a statement that noted the magistrate’s departure from the [Microsoft] precedent.

Court papers stated that Google “sometimes” parses emails into disparate pieces as a way to improve its network performance, meaning the company didn’t…know where specific emails might be stored…Google believes it has complied with the warrants it…received by facilitating the handover of data stored in U.S. servers.

While we wait for all this to play out, how are people responding to the ruling? Adam is pretty concise:

So much for privacy.

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