Apple backs Microsoft in data privacy fight against U.S. government

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2014
Apple was one of more than 50 private companies and trade associations to sign amicus briefs in support of Microsoft on Monday as the Redmond, Wash., company continues an ongoing court battle with the U.S. government over customer data privacy protections.


Source: Microsoft


Microsoft announced 28 technology and media companies, 23 trade and advocacy groups and 35 computer scientists signed ten briefs in support of its fight to keep customer emails stored on international servers protected from U.S. government agency warrants.

Alongside Apple, prominent tech companies on the list of signatories (PDF link)include Amazon, AT&T, Cisco, eBay, HP, Rackspace and Verizon, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Microsoft is arguing against a U.S. government request to release emails currently stored on servers outside the country. According to court filings, Microsoft was issued a search warrant relating to a drug investigation last year, compelling the company hand over customer data from an Outlook email account located in Ireland.

Instead of complying, Microsoft appealed to keep the data private as it resides only on a server in Dublin. As such, U.S. government agencies do not have jurisdiction and should be required to go through international channels, the company argues.

At issue is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which allows federal and local law enforcement agencies to demand digital records, such as email correspondence, with appropriately served warrants. Microsoft argues Congress did not include stipulations in ECPA that would allow seizures outside the U.S.

If ECPA is interpreted to allow for extraterritorial jurisdiction, it may hurt cloud-based businesses located within the U.S., as international customers would be unwilling to sign up for such services. Further, such a distinction could lead to identical requests from foreign agencies for data owned by U.S. citizens. A lower court previously ruled against Microsoft, rejecting the warrant as illegal. The company has since taken the argument to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Digital privacy has become a hot topic in tech as Apple and other industry giants look to increase transparency over government data requests. Most recently, Apple has been in the crosshairs of law enforcement agencies for implementing aggressive customer security in iOS 8 that makes it impossible to extract data from locked iPhones and iPads.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    This is a big issue, and I fully support Microsoft in this fight.

    Nice to see where Google stands on the issue.
  • Reply 2 of 20
    xixoxixo Posts: 417member
    "do as I say, not as I do..." - Dad
  • Reply 3 of 20
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

    …to keep customer emails stored on international servers protected from U.S. government agency warrants.

     

    How about customer e-mails stored on US servers protected from the LACK of US government agency warrants? Because that’s a pretty big problem, too.

  • Reply 4 of 20
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Such a difficult question! The whole legal system up until this point in history has been that certain governments control certain geographical areas. So it would seem Microsoft/Apple is in the right, if the Microsoft server is in Ireland it falls under Irish government rules.

    But in the age of the Internet, does the whole geographic location thing need to be rethought?
  • Reply 5 of 20
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,012moderator
    ascii wrote: »
    Such a difficult question! The whole legal system up until this point in history has been that certain governments control certain geographical areas. So it would seem Microsoft/Apple is in the right, if the Microsoft server is in Ireland it falls under Irish government rules.

    But in the age of the Internet, does the whole geographic location thing need to be rethought?

    If I were king of the world, I'd resolve this thus:

    1. Country A requests access to data on server located in country B.
    2. Country B askes, 'is this data belonging to a citizen of country A?'
    If the answer is Yes, then be respectful of country A's sovereignty over its citizens and grant access to the data.
    If the answer is No, then it's up to country B whether they wish to comply.
  • Reply 6 of 20
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RadarTheKat View Post





    If I were king of the world, I'd resolve this thus:



    1. Country A requests access to data on server located in country B.

    2. Country B askes, 'is this data belonging to a citizen of country A?'

    If the answer is Yes, then be respectful of country A's sovereignty over its citizens and grant access to the data.

    If the answer is No, then it's up to country B whether they wish to comply.

     

    But what if the person is question is not a citizen of the US (just a resident), but is commiting a crime (or suspected of such) in the US?

     

    If I was King of the World, I would base it on a thing being a crime in both jurisdictions. That is, country A contacts country B and asks for the data off the server. Country A provides the legal justificiation (under their system) for wanting that data. If that justification would also be a justification under Country B's legal system, then they provide the data. e.g. terrorism is illegal in both countries, and the US offers evidence of such, so Ireland agrees.

  • Reply 7 of 20
    AI, this doesn't make sense: "A lower court previously ruled against Microsoft, rejecting the warrant as illegal." Shouldn't it read "A lower court previously ruled against Microsoft, determining that the warrant was legal."?
  • Reply 8 of 20

    This is electronic data (ones and zeros) stored on one or more hard drives located in a specific geographic location — in this case, the Republic of Ireland. The idea of the data being "in the cloud" and therefore immune to geographic demarcation is bogus. The data is in a foreign country outside of the US jurisdiction.

     

    The only way to get at this data should be through formal requests by the US to the Republic of Ireland authorities, as governed by international treaty.

     

    Either that, or the US could invade Ireland...

  • Reply 9 of 20
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ascii View Post



    Such a difficult question! The whole legal system up until this point in history has been that certain governments control certain geographical areas. So it would seem Microsoft/Apple is in the right, if the Microsoft server is in Ireland it falls under Irish government rules.



    But in the age of the Internet, does the whole geographic location thing need to be rethought?



    Not difficult at all.  There are existing arrangements by which the Irish government could have been requested to obtain the information and hand it over, which they would have done.  Someone doesn't want to play by the rules and needs to lose their job for trying this on.

  • Reply 10 of 20
    cnocbui wrote: »
    <div class="quote-container" data-huddler-embed="/t/183920/apple-backs-microsoft-in-data-privacy-fight-against-u-s-government#post_2651949" data-huddler-embed-placeholder="false">Quote:<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>ascii</strong> <a href="/t/183920/apple-backs-microsoft-in-data-privacy-fight-against-u-s-government#post_2651949"><img alt="View Post" src="/img/forum/go_quote.gif" /></a><br /><br />Such a difficult question! The whole legal system up until this point in history has been that certain governments control certain geographical areas. So it would seem Microsoft/Apple is in the right, if the Microsoft server is in Ireland it falls under Irish government rules.<br /><br />But in the age of the Internet, does the whole geographic location thing need to be rethought?</div></div><p><br />Not difficult at all.  There are existing arrangements by which the Irish government could have been requested to obtain the information and hand it over, which they would have done.  Someone doesn't want to play by the rules and needs to lose their job for trying this on.</p>
    That would be the US government and it's twisted idea that the rest of the world needs to accede to every request/demand and give nothing in return.
  • Reply 11 of 20

    This is the right thing for Apple to do.

     

    Also, bravo, Microsoft!

  • Reply 12 of 20
    Quote:


    Apple was one of more than 50 private companies and trade associations to sign amicus briefs in support of Microsoft on Monday as the Redmond, Wash., company continues an ongoing court battle with the U.S. government over customer data privacy protections.


     

    Apple is not a private company...

  • Reply 13 of 20
    Originally Posted by Ex iPhone Owner View Post

    Apple is not a private company...




    It’s certainly not a public company.

  • Reply 14 of 20
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post



    This is a big issue, and I fully support Microsoft in this fight.



    Nice to see where Google stands on the issue.

    Agree 100%.

     

    And indeed where is Google on this?

  • Reply 15 of 20
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     



    It’s certainly not a public company.


    It's a publically traded company.  That's the definition of a public company...  I don't know how anyone takes you seriously.

  • Reply 16 of 20
    Originally Posted by Ex iPhone Owner View Post

    It's a publically traded company.

     

    Which is meaningless to the argument at hand, since it isn’t owned by the government.

     

     I don't know how anyone takes you seriously.


     

    By paying attention, I’d guess.

  • Reply 17 of 20
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

     

    Which is meaningless to the argument at hand, since it isn’t owned by the government.

     

    By paying attention, I’d guess.


    Being a public company has nothing to do with being owned by the government.  You really don't understand that?  Honestly you don't?  If you don't get that then there's no point in further discussions with you.

     

    http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/publiccompany.asp

  • Reply 18 of 20
    Originally Posted by Ex iPhone Owner View Post

    Being a public company has nothing to do with being owned by the government. 

     

    Public in the context of publicly traded and public in the context of owned by the government are wholly different. This article regards the latter, so it makes sense to say that Apple is a private company.

     

    It’s like how you can say LOS and mean “loss of signal” in interplanetary communication and “length of stay” in hospitalization. 

  • Reply 19 of 20
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,294member
    Nice to see where Google stands on the issue.
    techlover wrote: »
    Agree 100%.

    And indeed where is Google on this?
    Google has been pushing for changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the issue with MS, for several years. They petitioned the White House, lobbied Congress and partnered with other consumer protection groups and techs to convince politicians to enact better protections for customer data. Google has been the lead voice for change for quite some time with not a lot of help from others in tech. . Here's a couple of articles describing their position.
    https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/aclu-joins-att-google-and-privacy-groups-urge-updates-privacy-law

    http://blog.zwillgen.com/2014/10/23/google-can-compelled-produce-emails-pursuant-civil-subpoena/
    (I don't know if either MS or Apple offered support for Google's legal argument)

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Google-Reminds-People-the-Electronic-Communications-Privacy-Act-is-Bad-Needs-Reform-447521.shtml
  • Reply 20 of 20
    gatorguy wrote: »
    techlover wrote: »
    Agree 100%.

    And indeed where is Google on this?
    Google has been pushing for changes to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the issue with MS, for several years. They petitioned the White House, lobbied Congress and partnered with other consumer protection groups and techs to convince politicians to enact better protections for customer data. Google has been the lead voice for change for quite some time with not a lot of help from others in tech. . Here's a couple of articles describing their position.
    https://www.aclu.org/technology-and-liberty/aclu-joins-att-google-and-privacy-groups-urge-updates-privacy-law
    http://blog.zwillgen.com/2014/10/23/google-can-compelled-produce-emails-pursuant-civil-subpoena/
    (I don't know if either MS or Apple offered support for Google's legal argument)
    http://news.softpedia.com/news/Google-Reminds-People-the-Electronic-Communications-Privacy-Act-is-Bad-Needs-Reform-447521.shtml

    Thanks Gatorguy!

    I really appreciate the information.

    Call me crazy but you seem to often add good information to the site. Good on ya.
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