Microsoft gets plenty of support in appeal against US government’s data demands

Microsoft has found itself with no shortage of support when it comes to the appeal case it’s fighting against the US government’s demand for data (specifically, emails) stored on Redmond’s servers in Ireland.

A number of tech heavyweights have got behind Microsoft, including Apple, Amazon, Cisco, eBay and Verizon, as we had already heard, but now also media organisations including ABC, CNN, Fox News and the Guardian (the latter of which reported this story) have stood behind Redmond.

Furthermore, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers over in the States back Microsoft’s refusal to stump up data held on overseas servers.

The previous federal court ruling that Microsoft should give up its data, no matter where in the world it is located, was made on the grounds that the emails in question should be regarded as the business records of a cloud provider – and not as personal correspondence. And that’s a very dangerous distinction to make.

As most folks are pointing out, including Microsoft, the case sets a dangerous precedent for access to data on foreign soil – and what would the US do if the boot was on the other foot, and some foreign country wanted sensitive details pulled from an American server?

Microsoft’s Executive Vice President & General Counsel, Brad Smith, previously argued: “If the Government prevails, how can it complain if foreign agents require tech companies to download emails stored in the US? This is a question the Department of Justice hasn’t yet addressed, much less answered.”

And the media fears that if the US government wins this case, they will be next in the firing line. Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, commented: “We have stuff governments around the world want. This case may not be about digital journalism but the next case will be.”

We suspect that, particularly with all the clamour around this now and support for Redmond, common sense will win out in the appeal.