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Ireland Supports Microsoft Over Email Privacy

A disagreement between Microsoft and the United States government has been ongoing since 2013. A court order was filed against the technology firm requiring them to hand over emails that are being stored on a server in Ireland. Microsoft refused the request, claiming that these servers are not within America’s jurisdiction, thus they don’t have the authority to search them and that they are compelled to Irish and European Union privacy laws.

Many other companies within the U.S., mainly technology and media firms, have voiced the fact that they agree with Microsoft and that the government doesn’t have the ability to have authority over data stored worldwide.

America argues that it has global jurisdiction providing that the transaction involves a party within their country (namely Microsoft). However, Ireland has now joined the discussion to say that they have jurisdiction over the data that is stored within their country.

The Republic of Ireland has filed an amicus brief in New York that makes three points in support of Microsoft. The first is that American courts have to respect the sovereignty of other countries. Secondly, the Irish government doesn’t have to intervene in American courts to protect its sovereignty. Lastly, it states that failure to intervene in the U.S. court case doesn’t demonstrate consent or agreement for America to search Microsoft’s Irish servers.

Ireland and the United States have a joint treaty agreement that outlines the cooperation of their respective law enforcement agencies. As such, Ireland only object to unauthorised access to their servers – they are willing to consider the request if it is sent through the correct channels.

“Both the parties and other amici, Ireland and the United States are parties to a treaty addressing the subject of this appeal. Ireland would be pleased to consider, as expeditiously as possible, a request under the treaty, should one be made,” write Ireland in their amicus.

This is an issue that Microsoft is keen to have resolved quickly to avoid it dragging out longer or becoming an unnecessary legal battle. Microsoft wrote a blog post on the issue, saying that the fact the Irish government are now involved shows that “an international dialogue on this issue is not only necessary but possible”. Microsoft believes that it is best for everyone – or perhaps namely them – that the law respects individual’s rights.

“We’ve long argued that it’s best for law enforcement to move forward in a way that respects people’s rights under their local laws. We’re grateful that government voices have now joined those of leading companies, advocacy organizations and academic experts,” the company said in a blog post.

This will be a case that will be interesting to watch develop. It should be expected that the U.S. follow the necessary legal procedure and request the information as part of their treaty with Ireland, though it’s odd that they hadn’t done that sooner. Difficulties may arise if they continue to push Microsoft for the data without the consideration for Irish and EU data laws, but such a violation would set an unwanted precedent for the future.


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