Privacy issues are in the headlights again. The numerous recent debates, scandals and legal matters concerning privacy are an indicator of the fact that now more than ever there is no consensus over what privacy means, how it should be handled and how far should we go to keep private things private. The fact that a U.S. judge warrants Microsoft to hand data stored in Ireland just serves as material to take the debate further.
The U.S administration proved that it cannot be a trusty partner, as Germany recently found out, because the NSA and CIA like to snoop into other countries internal affairs. It is not news, as U.S. intelligence services acted similarly for decades. After many years of collecting user data, corporations now own impressive data bases. This makes them eligible for data requests coming from public institutions. Just yesterday, Russian regulators filed a request to Apple and SAP for the two companies to reveal their software source codes. The Rusian government is concerned that spying tools might be hidden into the copyright protected software.
U.S. judge warrants Microsoft to submit foreign located data because the company controls it
Microsoft faces a somewhat surprising decision coming from a U.S. judge. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska concluded that Microsoft must turn over a client’s account information, including emails. The data is stored in an Ireland-based server. So right now, information deposited in other countries is not safe from U.S. regulators. “It is a question of control, not a question of the location of that information,” Judge Preska said.
The procedure applies to banking institutions, who are obliged to hand over information on clients, even if the data is stored outside the U.S. So why should other companies managing private data not comply the same regulation? Data is ethereal, so it does not move from one place to another as other forms of capital. It does not influence the overseas countries social economic conditions, so it should not comply local regulations any more than the U.S ones in the case of U.S.-based companies.
Naturally, other tech companies support Microsoft in its warrant challenge. Among others, AT&T, Apple, Cisco, and Verizon filed court briefs to support this position. Reuters says the companies are worried they will lose money if investors are worried about the privacy of their data. It makes sense, because if a U.S. judge warrants Microsoft now, some of these companies might follow soon.