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Electronic records outside US not covered by US warrants

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Government today in US Government vs. Microsoft. The government is investigating a drug dealer and want access to records held by Microsoft. Microsoft turned over metadata stored on US machines. But they refused to turn over the specific emails stored on machines in Dublin. The company’s position is that the federal government needs to follow the rules of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the US and Ireland.

This has been winding its way through the appeals court.

The court’s ruling today states “§ 2703 of the Stored Communications Act does not authorize courts to issue and enforce against U.S.‐based service providers warrants for the seizure of customer e‐mail content that is stored exclusively on foreign servers.”

An interesting ruling, and I see pros and cons to the ruling. It does complicate anti-spam enforcement a bit and make it easier for criminals to hide their data overseas while they might be in the US. But it’s already easy for them to do that. Many arrests of spam gangs and others for crimes committed on the Internet over email involve multiple law enforcement agencies across the world.

Full text of the ruling (.pdf link)

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