Jan 24, 2017 - Technology

Got a warrant? It’s not enough for overseas data

Microsoft just scored a major win in a landmark cloud computing case centered on how law enforcement agencies can access data storied outside U.S. borders.

What it means: It sets a key precedent that law enforcement can't rely on U.S. warrants to access data stored internationally—a win for tech companies storing huge amounts of consumer data and a set-back for law enforcement trying to access that data to solve crimes.

The backstory: Law enforcement wanted to access a consumer's emails stored on a Microsoft server in Ireland as part of a drug case. Microsoft argued the data in question was subject to Irish rather than U.S. law and that a U.S. warrant wasn't enough to access that data. Six months ago, the court sided with Microsoft, and the government appealed. Today, a split federal appeals court declined to hear the appeal.

What's next: Both Microsoft and dissenting judges say Congress needs to address the legal gap to keep up with the cloud computing era. The 30-year old law governing data access is no longer relevant to the way consumers access data stored in the cloud today, said Aaron Cooper of BSA, which represents software companies. "Congress needs to step in to create a balance that respects foreign borders and law enforcement as well as consumer privacy," he told Axios.

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