Apple and others join Google in resisting FBI warrant seeking emails stored outside US

Business Insider reports that Apple has joined Amazon, Microsoft and Cisco in filing a joint amicus brief in support of Google’s opposition to a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeking to extract emails stored on non-US servers.

In response to the FBI warrant, a court in Pennsylvania recently ruled that Google must hand over emails stored on non-US servers. The joint filing claims the warrant could set a troubling precedent and force Google to violate foreign data privacy laws.

Google will appeal the Pennsylvania court’s decision.

“The magistrate in this case departed from precedent, and we plan to appeal the decision,” a spokesman for the company said last month. “We will continue to push back on over-broad warrants,” added the search giant.

The joint filing mentions a similar case where Microsoft was asked to hand over emails stored on Irish servers, arguing that other countries could now leverage the FBI warrant to seek emails from US citizens that are stored on US servers located on US soil.

Foreign nations may view the FBI’s data-extraction requests as an affront to their sovereignty in much the same way that physically conducting law enforcement activity on foreign soil would violate their sovereignty and territorial integrity, as per the filing.

Here’s an excerpt from the filing:

When a warrant seeks email content from a foreign data center, that invasion of privacy occurs outside the United States—in the place where the customers’ private communications are stored, and where they are accessed, and copied for the benefit of law enforcement, without the customer’s consent.

Our sister nations clearly view US warrants directing service providers to access, copy, and transmit to the United States data stored on servers located within their territory as an extraterritorial act on the part of the US government.

Congress, not the court, should determine if the Stored Communications Act (SCA) applies to data stored on non-US servers, argues the filing. For what it’s worth, the government lost an appeal to rehear a similar case targeting Microsoft after the firm refused to hand over emails of US citizens that are stored on Irish servers.

Microsoft argued the SCA did not apply to customer data stored on non-US servers, warning that the SCA was enacted when the Internet was still in its infancy.

“The SCA does not authorize warrants that reach into other countries, and forcing those Amici to execute such searches on the Government’s behalf would place those Amici in the position of being compelled to risk violating foreign data privacy reads the filing.

Source: Business Insider