Wealth & Risk Management Blog

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Court Grants US Extraterritorial Search of Emails

Posted by William Byrnes on September 17, 2014


Feds Pose Privacy Risk by Grabbing Overseas ISP E-mails

read the synopsis by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP …

Warrant Issued Pursuant to the SCA

This matter began with an application by the United States for a “search and seizure warrant” targeting a specific @msn.com e-mail account provided by Microsoft, and used by a person who is the subject of a government narcotics investigation. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV issued the warrant, after which Microsoft undertook to locate the data associated with the account. Microsoft determined that there were two buckets of data related to the account, one stored in the United States and the other in Ireland.

The “noncontent” bucket consisted of information such as the sender and recipient e-mail addresses as well as date and time information. Microsoft stored this information in the United States, and produced it in response to the warrant. The “content” bucket of information included the substance of the e-mails and their subject lines. For this particular user, Microsoft stored this information at a data center operated by a Microsoft subsidiary in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft did not produce this information and instead moved to quash the warrant to the extent that it required information from the Dublin data center. Notably, Microsoft began the practice of using foreign data centers in 2010 to address the problem of “latency” that occurred when the servers were too far away from the user. The Irish data center would typically serve users that live closer to Ireland than the United States.

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