Unreleased court documents show that Google has stopped challenging a lot of the government requests to hand over data from it’s overseas servers. Microsoft is actually fighting this the best they can…. and we will talk about this later.
Politico is reporting that this comes as the US Supreme Court is preparing its decision on whether laws permit US authorities to use the court system to gain electronic records from outside of the country. This should not not be possible whatsoever.
Judge Beryl Howell has rejected Google’s challenge to a search warrant, and agreed to hold the company in contempt of court for disregarding her order — fining it at least $10,000 daily — but this was suspended not soon after, pending an appeal from Google.
Let’s Talk About Microsoft Now
The challenges against US data search warrants began in earnest in July 2016 after a federal appeals court found in favour of Microsoft in an unprecedented challenge. The company had argued that the US search-and-seizure law was not applicable to email stored on servers over in Ireland.
This brings up another good example. The British Government has to respect the Embassy of Ecuador and not just storm in and take Julian Assange. Yet, when it comes to data that crosses borders, just forget it. I see it as the same regardless if it is a person, data, or anything else.
Following the Microsoft judgement, courts outside the second circuit court of appeals in the US that were not bound by the ruling began to dismissing new challenges, including Google’s.
The Department of Justice sent a document to the supreme court, stating:
Google has reversed its previous stance and informed the government that it will comply with new Section 2703 warrants outside the second circuit (while suggesting that it will appeal the adverse decisions in one or more existing cases).
Google told Ars Technica that it supported the original verdict settled on during the Microsoft case, saying:
We’re continuing to follow the second circuit court of appeals’ decision and will decline to produce data stored overseas in courts that fall within that circuit. To seek consistency in the law, we are appealing some of the cases where lower courts have decided not to follow the ruling of the second circuit court of appeals.
Should the court system be held in contempt of court for not following the law and previous rulings? I think so. Yet, I don’t think it works like that.
It went on to emphasis the importance of user privacy as a core company tenet, and the need for an overhaul of data surveillance laws in a broader sense.
Google and Microsoft fighting for user privacy shows that they care more about their customers than a government telling them to hand over their data.
This discrepancy in court decisions is yet another reminder that data surveillance laws need to be modernised to safeguard users’ privacy, protect law enforcement’s legitimate need to collect digital evidence and provide clarity.
We are pleased that both houses of Congress have introduced bills that address these issues.