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Microsoft: Congress didn’t say gov’t can reach emails stored oversea

The law never said companies must turn over private emails stored on servers overseas, Microsoft said in a reply brief filed Thursday evening with a U.S. appeals court.

Microsoft has been embroiled in a legal fight with the government over private emails stored by Microsoft on a server in Ireland. Last December, US District Court, Southern District of New York issued a search warrant that authorized the government to obtain the emails. Microsoft appealed to the Second Circuit to overturn the ruling that led to the warrant.

“Nowhere did Congress say that ECPA [Electronic Communications Privacy Act] should reach private emails stored on providers’ computers in foreign countries,” Microsoft attorneys wrote today.

In a blog post Thursday written by Brad Smith, general counsel, Microsoft continued to push for reforms to the ECPA “that balances the needs of law enforcement and personal privacy,” such as the LEADS Act recently reintroduced in Congress.

“Until U.S. law is rewritten, we believe that the court in our case should honor well-established precedents that limit the government’s reach from extending beyond U.S. borders,” Smith wrote.

MSFT’s refusal to hand over emails from the Irish server is supported in ten amicus briefs filed in December from 28 leading technology and media companies, 35 leading computer scientists, and 23 trade associations and advocacy organizations