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US court forces Microsoft to hand over cloud data stored overseas

Data stored overseas could soon be privy to the prying eyes of the US government after a court ruled that Microsoft should allow access to certain information even though the country has no jurisdiction there.

Related: Prism scandal to rock US cloud industry with $35bn losses

Cloud Pro reports that a judge in the state of New York ruled Microsoft must hand over data stored overseas as the investigating officers from law enforcement agencies and governments would be “seriously impeded” if access is denied.

“Even when applied to information that is stored in severs abroad, an SCA [Stored Communications Act] warrant does not violate the presumption against extraterritorial application of American law,” stated New York judge James Francis.

Microsoft had been arguing on behalf of an Irish customer that the US government has no controls over data stored in centres overseas and Francis’ ruling effectively means that searching customer data overseas doesn’t violate international law.

It will be a blow to any US cloud provider looking to extend its talons even further internationally as the government can now search user data whenever it pleases regardless of where in the world the data is stored.

Many businesses have already expressed a note of caution when it comes to US-based cloud providers following NSA revelations last year and almost a quarter of UK respondents to that survey planned to move data away from US firms.

Microsoft already plans to appeal against the ruling and came out strongly against what it sees as an issue that urgently needs addressing.

Related: European cloud providers hit hard by cyber attacks

“The magistrate judge, who originally issued the warrant in question, disagreed with our view and rejected our challenge,” said David Howard, deputy general counsel at Microsoft, in a blog post. “This is the first step toward getting this issue in front of courts that have the authority to correct the government’s longstanding views on the application of search warrants to content stored digitally outside the US.”