Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Digital Europe ask Europe for help!

Last Friday, Apple, Oracle, IBM, HP and other cloud bigwigs (represented by DigitalEurope) begged the EU for help in preventing the US seizing emails stored by Microsoft in Ireland. Now Ireland itself has done the same.

On Tuesday night, the Irish authorities formally requested that the European Commission examine whether EU data protection laws had been broken by the US government in its attempt to force Microsoft's Irish subsidiary to hand over information.

A warrant was issued in the US last December ordering Microsoft to hand over emails allegedly connected to a drug trafficking case that were stored on servers in Ireland. The tech behemoth appealed, but US district judge Loretta Preska ruled in July that the location of the data was immaterial since Microsoft had "control" over it.

Microsoft argues that the data in Ireland does not fall directly under US jurisdiction, and that if the US wants access to it, it had the option of working together with the Irish authorities using the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).

It appears Ireland also thinks the the US has stepped on its sovereignty toes.

In the US, third parties with expert knowledge or insight may file an opinion with the court, known as an "amicus brief", literally a letter from a "friend of the court", offering information that has not been solicited by any of the parties.

Some international companies have already done so, including Verizon. The Irish government has asked the Commish to do the same.

Microsoft's EU policy director in Brussels, Mark Lange, told El Reg last month: "We are fighting the Feds. We need clarity on these issues. We want to be able to tell our customers with certainty that proper legal procedures will be followed in the event of any authority wanting access to their data."

He said the current situation with the US demanding access to data stored in another jurisdiction was "fuzzy".

Microsoft has until mid December to file its latest appeal papers.