Microsoft wins court appeal to prevent it handing over Irish email data to US authorities

Microsoft Sandyford

Adrian Weckler

Microsoft has won a court appeal to prevent it from handing over email data located on Irish servers to US authorities.

The legal victory is likely to have major repercussions for police forces and tech companies who are increasingly at odds over what sort of information should be available to authorities investigating crimes.

The tech giant had fought an attempt by US law enforcement agencies to retrieve email account information as part of a US anti-narcotics investigation. But the email information, associated with an account, was located on Irish servers belonging to Microsoft.

When Microsoft refused to hand the email information over, a US District Court held the company in contempt.

However, a US Court of Appeal has upheld Microsoft’s non-disclosure, arguing that warrants from US authorities do not have extraterritorial effect.

“[We] conclude that section 2703 of the Stored Communications Act does not authorise courts to issue and enforce against US‐based service providers warrants for the seizure of customer e‐mail content that is stored exclusively on foreign servers,” said the US Court of Appeals today.

“Because Microsoft has complied with the warrant’s domestic directives and resisted only its extraterritorial aspects, we reverse the District Court’s denial of Microsoft’s motion to quash, vacate its finding of civil contempt and remand the cause with instructions to the District Court to quash the warrant insofar as it directs Microsoft to collect, import, and produce to the government customer content stored outside the United States.”