US government lays claim to foreign-held data

July 15, 2014 // 10:58 a.m.

Tags: #cloud #cloud-computing #cloud-storage #federal-court #microsoft #privacy #sca #security #us-government

The US government has declared that it has rights to request the disclosure of data held on foreign servers, arguing against an appeal that claimed Fourth Amendment protections on physical searches should extend to data held in the electronic realm.

Following a court case in which Microsoft was demanded to turn over email data stored on a system in its Dublin data centre to US authorities, the company issued an appeal that argued the Fourth Amendment to the US constitution - which protects against physical searches outside the US - should protect data held on foreign soil from release. While the hearing for that appeal has yet to take place, the US government has already outlined its argument - and it's not good news for privacy enthusiasts.

According to an analysis of the court filings by Ars Technica, the US government's response to Microsoft's appeal is to claim that the Stored Communications Act overrules the Fourth Amendment, stating that 'overseas records must be disclosed domestically when a valid subpoena, order or warrant compels their production,' arguing that a request for disclosure does not constitute a physical search.

If accepted, that argument would set a precedent that could have a chilling effect on the growth of the cloud computing industry. Any company with a US presence could be issued with a court order demanding the release of data from any of its customers, US-based or otherwise, from any of its data centres around the world and be forced to comply.

The appeal is due to be heard before the federal court on the 31st of July.

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